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Washington Privacy of School Records Laws

Student privacy is a big deal in Washington schools. Laws protect students' personal information from getting into the wrong hands. One important law is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is a federal law that helps keep educational records private. This article explains Washington's privacy laws at schools. It details what information within a student's education records is protected and what to do if you think your privacy rights have been violated.

Privacy of School Records Laws Generally

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that applies nationwide. It gives students and their parents certain rights over their academic records. These rights include the right to see and review the records, request corrections, and control who sees the information. Educational records include things like grades, test scores, and disciplinary records.

Schools can't release personally identifiable information (PII) without consent. But there are certain exceptions, such as during health or safety emergencies. FERPA also allows schools to designate certain information as “directory information," like student names and phone numbers. This information can be released without the consent of the student or their parents. This is the case unless the student or parents object to the disclosure. Directory information must be released to school officials with a legitimate educational interest.

Washington School Record Privacy Laws

Washington state has its own laws to protect student privacy. These laws often align with FERPA. These laws cover both public schools and private schools within the state of Washington. They require schools to have policies in place to safeguard student records. Washington law also restricts the release of student information, including directory information, without consent. Directory information includes a student's name, dates of attendance, enrollment status, and contact information.

If an educational institution receives a subpoena or request for records, it must notify the student or parent before releasing the information. This is the case unless the request is from law enforcement in the case of an emergency.

The following information provides basic provisions of Washington's privacy of school records laws.

Code Section Revised Code of Washington § 28A.605.030
Who Has Access to School Records? Parents or legal guardians of students have access to student education records as provided by FERPA and the Washington statute. There are exceptions, however, regarding court orders or subpoenas.
Agency to Contact for 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 was formerly known as 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. Persons responsible for unauthorized disclosure of student records can also 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 may change at any time through the enactment of new legislation, decisions made at higher courts, and other means. We strive to ensure the accuracy of the information on these pages, but you also may want to contact a Washington education law attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

Getting Legal Help

There may be instances where you feel your or your child's privacy has been violated. In these situations, you have the right to seek legal help. Lawyers can help clarify student privacy and parental rights. Attorneys with experience in education law can provide guidance and representation to protect students' rights.

Lawyers can help ensure compliance with applicable federal and state regulations and school district policies. They can also advocate for student rights. Attorneys can review subpoenas and other court orders. They can provide valuable guidance when exploring your legal options.

Consult a qualified Washington education attorney about your potential case today.

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