K12 Records Resources

March 14, 2024

Understanding FERPA: Why it Matters for K-12 School Systems


As a K-12 district leader, you know that safeguarding student data is of the utmost importance. So surely, you have heard of FERPA. In case you are in the dark, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. It sets guidelines for who can access these records, and how they can be used. In this blog post, we’ll dive into what FERPA is and shine a light on why it matters for K-12 school systems.

FERPA was first enacted in 1974 and applies to all schools that receive federal funding. In short, it gives parents and eligible students the right to access and control their education records, while at the same time ensuring that those records are protected from unauthorized access. Education records can include anything from grades and test scores to disciplinary records and medical information.

So, why does FERPA matter for K-12 school systems? For one, it helps maintain the trust of parents and students. By protecting their privacy, schools show that they take the responsibility of student data seriously. This can help build trust with families and ultimately lead to a better relationship with the community. In addition, FERPA compliance is required by law - schools that violate FERPA guidelines can face hefty fines.

Another important aspect of FERPA is that it sets guidelines for obtaining parental consent to share student information. This is especially important when it comes to sharing data with third-party companies, such as technology providers. Schools must ensure that these companies are FERPA-compliant and that they have permission to use student data for specific purposes.

FERPA also contains provisions for sharing information in emergency situations. Schools may disclose education records without consent in certain situations, such as when there is a health or safety emergency. It’s important for district leaders to understand these provisions and to have procedures in place for emergency disclosures.

Finally, it’s worth noting that FERPA is not the only law that school systems need to be aware of when it comes to student data privacy. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) are just two examples of other laws that may apply to K-12 education. It’s important for district leaders to stay up-to-date on these laws and to ensure that their schools are in compliance.

FERPA is a crucial piece of legislation that helps protect the privacy of student education records. School districts that are compliant with FERPA guidelines not only build trust with parents and students but also avoid costly fines. By understanding the guidelines outlined in FERPA, district leaders can ensure that their schools are handling student data appropriately. It’s important to remember that FERPA is just one of many laws that schools need to be aware of when it comes to data privacy. District leaders should continue to educate themselves on this topic and make it a priority when working with ed tech vendors and other third-party companies.


Download our informative guide to ensure necessary security considerations while implementing technology in K-12.