FERPA Overview

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law that protects the privacy of education records of all students enrolled in schools beyond the high school level. Schools are required to maintain that privacy, primarily by restricting release of records and the access provided to those records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a Web site with information about FERPA.

How Does the USA Patriot Act Amend FERPA?

President Bush signed the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" on October 26, 2001. Section 507 of the USA PATRIOT Act amends FERPA by permitting institutions to disclose, without the knowledge or consent of the student, personally identifiable information from the student's education records to the Attorney General of the United States or his designee in response to an ex parte order (one filed without notice to the student) in connection with the investigation or prosecution of terrorism crimes. Also, the school is not required to record such identities.