Keeping Up with the Transferring Student: The Duty to Share Information

DA Leone: Information Sharing Amongst Schools Vital to Public Safety

Via Arlington Patch

There is understandable frustration by many over the reluctance of educators to understand the new legal climate in which information may be shared to enhance campus safety.

Often the reluctance to consider how student record information might be used more effectively is based on a misconception of federal law.  The Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (20 USC § 1232 and regulations at 34 CFR Part 99) imposes restrictions on the use of student records without parental consent.  FERPA is applicable to public and private schools that accept federal educational funding.  Since the 1970s, the FERPA rules have been amended by Congress and the USDOE to compliment disclosures of student information that further legitimate education interests.

It is essential that educators understand the new amendments that create both authority and a duty of educators to share information about new students who transfer into a school district with a history of misconduct.

The FERPA reform on this issue was implemented on January 8, 2009.  The new rules were designed to enhance campus safety.

Generally the rules clarify the conditions under which an educational agency or institution may disclose student information from an education record without the prior written consent of the parent. School officials may share information without prior written consent:

  • To other school officials, including teachers, within the school or school district. 34 CFR 99.31(a)(1);
  • To officials of another school, school system, or postsecondary institution where the student seeks or intends to enroll. 34 CFR 99.34; and
  • To teachers and school officials in other schools when the information concerns disciplinary action taken against the student for conduct. 34 CFR 99.36.

The most important amendment to the FERPA rules may be the change to the definition of “emergency.”   Under the emergency exception, educators may disclose to parents information that is deemed necessary to both place the community on notice and to enlist its aid in keeping students safe.  School officials under the new rules have the power to determine an emergency for themselves:

If an educational agency or institution determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individual, it may disclose the information to any person, including parents, whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. CFR § 99.36