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Wisconsin Privacy of School Records Laws

The privacy of school records is a fundamental aspect of ensuring student safety. These laws help ensure the security of students' personal information within the education system. Both federal and state laws play a crucial role in safeguarding this privacy. They set forth guidelines and procedures for the handling of student records. In Wisconsin, these laws provide comprehensive protection for student information. They align with federal statutes, which we will discuss in more detail below. This article explores the key provisions of Wisconsin's privacy laws. This includes the rights of parents and eligible students related to privacy and protection of their records.

Privacy of School Records Laws Generally

Privacy of school records laws generally are covered by federal and state regulations. These laws are aimed at protecting the confidentiality and security of student information. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a cornerstone law at the federal level. This federal law grants parents, legal guardians, and eligible students certain rights. These rights concern the student's education records. These rights include the ability to access and request amendments to their records. They also include control over disclosing personally identifiable information (PII). PII refers to any data that can be used to identify an individual. In the context of school records, PII includes identifiers like a student's name, address, Social Security number, and date of birth.

Protecting PII is crucial for maintaining student privacy. It helps prevent identity theft or unauthorized access to sensitive information. Laws like FERPA mandate strict controls over the handling and disclosure of PII. This helps ensure the security and confidentiality of student records. This information can be accessed by law enforcement in cases of safety emergencies. Similarly, school officials with legitimate educational interests can request access to such information.

PII related to legitimate educational interests encompasses information necessary for educational agencies to fulfill their duties within the education program. They should do so while ensuring compliance with pupil records laws. This may include data such as academic performance, attendance records, and disciplinary actions. FERPA does allow for the disclosure of PII without consent under legitimate educational interests. But it requires educational agencies to perform a careful balance. They must consider the need for access and the privacy rights of individual students. Such records, when disclosed, should be pertinent to the educational objectives of the institution. It's important to note that public records are not considered PII.

Wisconsin Privacy of School Records Laws

In Wisconsin, the Department of Public Instruction oversees the implementation of privacy laws. Wisconsin law mirrors many of these provisions of FERPA, but it also contains more requirements specific to the state. For example, Wisconsin law outlines categories of information that are directory data. Directory information can be disclosed without prior consent. This information includes a student's name and address. It can also include information about extracurricular activities or dates of attendance. Directory information can also include a student's enrollment status.

Wisconsin's school districts must adhere to federal and state laws on student records. This means they must establish policies and procedures to ensure compliance with these laws. Wisconsin law also provides for the retention and disposal of student records. It outlines how long certain types of records must be kept and when they can be destroyed.

Parents and eligible students have rights under Wisconsin law to access and review their records. They can request corrections to these records. They can also consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information. Schools must also notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under both FERPA and state law.

Code Section Wisconsin Statutes § 118.125 and 118.126
Who Has Access to School Records? All records are confidential. Only the student, their parents, or legal guardians can access the student's records. But some school officials may receive a copy upon request. This school official must have a legitimate educational interest in accessing such information. Student records that are treated as health records can be accessed by authorized individuals for health care. For example, school psychologists, counselors, social workers, and nurses can access the information. These individuals should keep all records, including behavioral records and disciplinary records, confidential. This is unless there is serious or imminent danger to anyone's health or safety or if required to disclose by law.
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 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. Those responsible for unauthorized disclosure of student records can also be held responsible. This means they can be subject to fines or other disciplinary actions. The U.S. Department of Education imposes these penalties.

Note: State laws are constantly changing. FindLaw strives to keep its state law information up to date. But, you may want to contact a Wisconsin education 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. They can assist with representation to protect students' rights. Lawyers can also help with the wrongful disclosure of information that may have affected you or your student.

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

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

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