Student Privacy Laws: What are Your Rights?

Family Law - August 14, 2023
A diverse group of teenage students holding notebooks.

Going to school means paperwork! Students must sign multiple documents to enroll, qualify for scholarships, sign up for classes, travel for coursework, and more. With all those official signatures and private information floating around, you want to make sure your student’s data is protected from prying eyes.

But what are the privacy laws for students? How can students be confident that their personal information is safe as they go about their busy lives? We’ve addressed some of these pressing concerns that may be on your mind as your loved one’s head to school this year.

Student privacy laws that protect students

Different states in the U.S. have varying laws about student privacy. However, if you are looking at the federal level, you may have one main question:

What three laws protect student confidentiality?

The three federal laws you will almost always come across are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), and the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA).

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law that gives parents certain rights over their children’s private info. Parents are able to access their children’s education records and request to have them amended, as well as partially control the disclosure of their children’s personally identifiable information.

FERPA ceases to be effective for the parents when the child turns 18, or when the child enters a post-secondary institution. At this point, FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student.

FERPA does not require schools to keep specific information in education records. FERPA prohibits schools from sharing their students’ personal information without permission. But in some instances, schools are legally allowed to share private information without disclosure or permission. However, some examples of FERPA violations may be in order to make it clear when a school may not disclose a student’s private information.

Violation of FERPA examples

  • If a school chooses to deny the parents or legal guardians their rights to their child’s education records, this is a clear violation of FERPA.
  • A school will violate FERPA if it fails to protect a student’s personal information by releasing data in a way that does not abide by the rules.

What is FERPA for college?

Once a student has moved on to higher education, it is now their right to control who has access to their education records. Students are able to access their own records, try to amend certain info in their records, and verify overall accuracy. If the student’s parents request access to their records, the student must give written permission.

What is COPPA?

A mother fixing her young son's school uniform as he gets ready for school.The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 is a federal law by which operators of online services and sites must abide to protect the privacy of children who are under 13. COPPA regulates several different aspects of website use:

• Privacy policies must include certain content.
• Privacy policies must also be posted whenever data can be collected.
• Parents must be sought for verifiable consent in certain circumstances.
• Website operators have certain responsibilities for children’s online privacy, such as restrictions on marketing that targets children who are younger than 13.

Do student privacy laws also cover student data privacy?

FERPA is in place to protect your student’s privacy. For more data-specific protection, the Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) comes into effect. CIPA regulates schools, libraries, and other educational entities that receive discounts for internet access.

You will also find that the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment rescripts student privacy rights in surveys and evaluations that are federally funded.

For people with disabilities, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act ensures the confidentiality of these people’s personally identifiable information.

How can parents of college students protect their kids?

When a young adult moves away to college, parents obviously want to protect them as much as possible. But it’s important to remember that, once your child is 18 and out of the house, many of the legal burdens of life fall on their shoulders. You may be responsible for some financial issues; for example, if your student’s car is under your name, you will have to deal with the problems if they get into trouble on the road.

However, since your child will become largely responsible when they go to college, the best you can do is warn them of the dangers and remain open to communication. Be someone they can trust if they have issues. Let them know you are available to offer wisdom and help as they navigate this new chapter of life.

Whether you have a child in K-12, trade school, college, or another form of education, you want to be sure they are safe, and their rights are protected. LegalShield wants the same thing! When you become a LegalShield Member, you gain access to a dedicated provider law firm that is ready to help. Our lawyers can answer questions, offer guidance, review paperwork, make phone calls, and assist with other legal issues that may arise as you deal with back-to-school ordeals.

Start your LegalShield Membership and find out exactly how we can help in your unique situation today!

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