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District of Columbia Privacy of School Records Laws

Privacy of school records is a crucial part of safeguarding student information in the District of Columbia (D.C.). Students and their parents have rights under federal law. One key law is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). These rights regard the privacy and confidentiality of student education records.

In Washington, D.C., these laws govern how educational institutions and local education agencies handle student information. This helps ensure that sensitive data is secure. It should only be accessible to authorized individuals. Understanding these laws is essential. It helps both educational institutions and students and their families protect privacy rights effectively. Let's explore privacy of school records laws in D.C. in more detail below.

Privacy of Student Records Laws Generally

FERPA, a federal law, applies to all educational institutions that receive federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education. It's codified in the United States Code (U.S.C.). These institutions include public schools, some private schools, and postsecondary institutions.

Under FERPA, personally identifiable information (PII) in student education records is protected. This information must remain confidential. This means it cannot be disclosed without written consent. This consent should be from the student's parent or legal guardian if the student is under the age of 18. Or the eligible students themselves must give consent once they turn 18 years of age. PII includes the student's address, social security number, and other identifiers.

But certain information, known as directory information, may be disclosed. This information can be released without prior written consent. This is true unless the student or the student's parent opts out of disclosing such records. This includes information such as the student's name and telephone number. It also encompasses information like participation in school activities.

Schools must also ensure that student education records are securely stored. This information should only be accessible to authorized school officials. These officials must have a legitimate educational interest. Schools can also share relevant information with law enforcement units. This usually happens in the event of safety emergencies.

District of Columbia Student Privacy Laws

With FERPA, the District of Columbia has its own student privacy laws. These laws help further protect the confidentiality of student information. These laws supplement federal privacy protections. They may provide more safeguards for students and their families. D.C. law emphasizes the confidentiality of student records. These laws limit access to such records to individuals within the educational institution. Further, D.C. law may impose stricter requirements. These requirements can apply to the handling and disclosure of student information than federal law. This helps ensure comprehensive privacy protection for D.C. students within education programs.

Code Section Code of the District of Columbia § 38–607: Student health files
Who Has Access to School Records? The State Board of Education, for public school students, and the mayor, for private school students, should create uniform procedures. These procedures require elementary and secondary schools in the district to maintain health files for each student. Each student's health file should contain all health-related documents submitted by or on behalf of the student. The student's health file is confidential. It is subject to inspection, disclosure, and use only as applicable to district and federal law.
Agency to Contact With Complaints You may want to file a complaint about school record privacy violations. If so, contact the U.S. Department of Education Student Privacy Policy Office. This office replaced (by name) the Family Policy Compliance Office.
Penalty for Violation of School Record Privacy Laws Violations can result in severe penalties at the federal level. Schools found in violation of FERPA may face the loss of federal funding. This includes both grants and loans. Additionally, individuals responsible for unauthorized disclosure of student records can be held responsible. This means they are subject to fines or other disciplinary actions. The U.S. Department of Education imposes these actions.

Note: State laws are always subject to change and may do so at any time. They change most often through the enactment of newly signed legislation and higher court decisions. You also may want to contact a District of Columbia education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Right to Privacy in Schools

Students and their parents have a fundamental right to privacy in schools. This includes the protection of sensitive information contained in education records. Examples of this information include the student's name, telephone number, place of birth, and dates of attendance. This right ensures that student records are accurate, secure, and used only for lawful purposes. Educational agencies have a responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of student information. They can only disclose such information when authorized by law or with written consent from the parent or eligible student. This is usually given through a written request.

Getting Legal Help

If you think your or your students' privacy rights have been violated, consider seeking legal help. Lawyers can help clarify student privacy and parental rights. Attorneys with experience in education law can provide guidance. They can represent you and protect your students' rights. They can also help ensure compliance with applicable federal and state regulations and school district policies. Attorneys can help explain FERPA requirements and your FERPA rights. They can also help communicate with the D.C. Office of the State Superintendent of Education.

Consult a qualified District of Columbia education attorney about your potential case today.

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