U.S. Dept. of Ed Releases FERPA Guidance for Emergencies

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) today announced updated guidelines relating to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the disclosure of student information related to emergencies and disasters.

According to the document, the purpose of this guidance is to answer questions that have arisen about the sharing of personally identifiable information from students’ education records to outside parties when responding to emergencies, including natural or man-made disasters. Understanding how, what, and when information can be shared with outside parties is an important part of emergency preparedness.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibits a school from disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records without the consent of a parent or eligible student, unless an exception to FERPA’s general consent rule applies. In some emergency situations, schools may only need to disclose properly designated “directory information” on students that provide general contact information. In other scenarios, school officials may believe that a health or safety emergency exists and more specific information on students should be disclosed to appropriate parties. Understanding the options available under FERPA empowers school officials to act quickly and decisively when concerns arise. FERPA is not intended to be an obstacle in addressing emergencies and protecting the safety of students.

The complete guidelines can be found at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferpa-disaster-guidance.pdf.

For additional information, contact 202-260-3887 or FERPA@ed.gov.

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