Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act


An Educational Service of the American Library Association

Office for Information Technology Policy


Prepared by Leslie Harris & Associates - in conjunction with OITP staff -


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a Federal law that requires educational institutions to protect students' privacy with regard to educational records.  Although the law does not apply directly to libraries, it applies to all schools-- including school libraries-- that receive funding from any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.  School and university librarians need to be familiar with FERPA to ensure that library policies and practices related to student educational records comply with its requirements.


Under FERPA, educational records include all records, files, documents, or other materials that are maintained by an educational agency (or anyone on behalf of the educational agency) that contain information directly related to a student.  Circulation records and web surfing logs or histories that contain personally identifiable information about a student would constitute educational records.  FERPA grants parents the right to inspect, review, amend, and consent to the disclosure of their child's educational records maintained by the school.  After a student either reaches the age of majority or attends a postsecondary institution, the right to inspect, review, amend, and consent to disclosure of educational records passes to the student. 


In general, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information to third parties, with the exception of disclosures:  1) to school officials with legitimate educational interests; 2) relating to the student's enrollment in another school; 3) to state or local educational authorities auditing or evaluating Federal or State supported educational programs; 4) in response to a lawfully issued court order or subpoena; and 5) of information that constitutes properly designated "directory information" such as a student's name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance.  FERPA also prohibits post-secondary institutions from sharing educational records with any third party, including a parent, without the written permission of the student.


Schools must notify parents of current students of their rights under FERPA annually.  The notification does not have to be made individually to parents and can be made through the local or student newspaper, calendar, student programs guide, rules handbook, or any other means reasonable likely to inform parents.


Further information:


Department of Education Family Policy Compliance Office:


Protecting the Privacy of Student Records, Guidelines for

Education Agencies:


Legal Information Institute

Family educational and privacy rights from the US Code:


Student Guide on FERPA from the University of Washington:



Copyright 2002, American Library Association, Office for

Information Technology Policy




This Online Privacy Tutorial is a service of the American Library Association. The content of this tutorial is primarily the work of Leslie Harris & Associates in Washington, DC. The views expressed in these messages are not necessarily the views of ALA or Leslie Harris & Associates. This tutorial is for information only and will not necessarily provide answers to concerns that arise in any particular situation. This service is not legal advice and does not include many of the technical details arising under certain laws. If you are seeking legal advice to address specific privacy issues, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice in your state.