Author: Michael Tucker, Attorney at Law
The teacher had handed out an unsealed envelope containing Student’s PSAT test booklet and score report to the wrong student. The envelope also contained Student’s College Board ID number and an access code to the Student’s personal information.
FERPA prohibits a local educational agency (LEA) from disclosing personally identifiable information from students’ education records without consent unless the disclosure otherwise satisfies an exception. Specifically protected from disclosure are “education records,” which includes records that are: (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or other specified party. (34 CFR § 99.3).
LEAs should take thoughtful precautions to prevent unauthorized student record disclosure. Here, the disclosure (and FERPA violation) could have been avoided if the envelope had been sealed, delivered to the correct student, or mailed directly to the student’s home.
The good news here is that these types of inadvertent disclosures are generally avoidable through training and establishing the proper procedures and protocols to maintain and deliver student records. Specifically, had the school developed a procedure to mail this information directly to the student, the human error in delivery could have been avoided. Moreover, if the teacher had been directed to carefully seal all student records, the inadvertent disclosure may have been avoided and easily corrected when discovered.