Q&A: Family Education Rights and Privacy Act


From Indiana Daily Student (Indiana University):

Q: As a student reporter at the Indiana Daily Student in Bloomington, I’ve had several school officials begin citing that they can’t give any documents that would personally identify a student according to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. I’ve heard of universities over-applying the federal law because they’re scared and unsure of over-disclosing documents that should be private. Could that be going on here?

A: Indiana courts have given the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act a wider scope than some other states, but that doesn’t mean all records that identify a student should fall under the law’s confidentiality language.

For example, Indiana law requires certain information be made available by law enforcement agencies. IU’s police force would fall under this provision, and its records shouldn’t be considered “educational records” under the act. You would be able to see the daily log of police activity with students’ names included.

Another thing to keep in mind: While the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act may be used by the school to protect a student’s name, that doesn’t mean the entire document must be confidential.

The burden is on the university to redact the identifying information and make the remaining part of the record available if there are not other statutory reasons that IU can apply to claim confidentiality.

Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at skey@hspa.com or (317) 624-4427.