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The Family Policy Compliance Office recently published a letter regarding the scope of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”). This letter came in response to a parent complaint that their FERPA rights were violated. Specifically, the Parent alleged that the District failed to provide copies of particular educational records of the student, failed to amend the student’s IEP minutes, and disclosed personally identifiable information.

The parent alleged that the Director of Special Education failed to provide a copy of a particular notice she believed to be in the student’s file. The Director of Special Education stated that she no longer had a copy of the notice and that even if she did have a copy, she was not required to furnish a copy to the parent. The Family Policy Compliance Office held that “it is not generally required by FERPA to provide copies of educational records,” unless extenuating circumstances exist. Furthermore, the Family Policy Compliance Office found that FERPA does not address the destruction or maintenance of educational records, noting that state laws or guidelines typically control the maintenance and destruction of records.

The parent also alleged that the District failed to amend the student’s IEP. The parent claimed that the IEP should have included that the student had access to a special education teacher 45 minutes per day. Instead, the IEP provided for access to a special education teacher only 15 minutes per day. The Family Policy Compliance Office held that the failure to amend the IEP did not amount to a violation of FERPA. The Family Policy Compliance Office stated that, “FERPA affords parents the opportunity to seek amendment of their children’s education records which they believe contain information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student’s rights of privacy. This right to amend is not unlimited, however, and an educational agency or institution is not required by FERPA to afford a parent or eligible student the right to seek to change substantive decisions made by school officials, such as grades or other evaluations of a student.”

Finally, the parent alleged that the District improperly disclosed personally identifiable information about the student by speaking with a police officer in the school’s reception area. In regard to this allegation, the Family Policy Compliance Officer found that the parent failed to allege specific facts to provide this allegation. The Family Policy Compliance Office gave the parent the opportunity to provide additional information with regards to this allegations within four weeks of receipt of their letter.

This decision highlights the limitations of FERPA, particularly with regard to the right to amend educational records. Notably, however, in addition to FERPA, the Illinois School Student Records Act and the Local Records Act govern access to, maintenance of, and destruction of student records in Illinois.

For your questions regarding student records, please contact Bennett Rodick or Kaitlin Atlas.