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New federal guidelines make student information more accessible

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    NMU         WASHINGTON, D.C.         Freedom of Information         Jul 18, 2000    

New federal guidelines make student information more accessible

  • Information regarding alleged student offenses and discipline may be released by a school without consent under new amendments to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act.

Amendments to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), otherwise known as the Buckley Amendment, make it possible but not mandatory for schools to disclose information regarding student disciplinary actions. The amendments were passed as a part of the Higher Education Amendments of 1998 and will take effect August 7.

The new amendments explicitly allow the identity of the alleged perpetrator, the nature of the alleged offenses, and the sanctions a school imposes to be made public without the consent of the alleged perpetrator or their guardian.

FERPA was enacted by Congress in 1974 to ensure the privacy of student records. The recent amendments to FERPA are the first to allow nonconsensual disclosure of certain records.

“Schools have traditionally said [FERPA] protects them from releasing [information about] discipline actions,” said Howard Clery III, treasurer of Security on Campus, Inc. “Most judicial hearings [at colleges] have been in private,” and as a result, information such as an offender’s identity, offense, and any disciplinary action taken has often remained undisclosed by schools.

The identity of the victim and any witnesses still will remain confidential under the amendments. The rules also allow schools to disclose to parents a student’s violation of the school’s alcohol or drug rules.

The amendments do not mandate that the crime information be disclosed and they do not supercede any state laws or regulations that still require alleged perpetrators’ identities to remain secret. Schools can still choose to not disclose the information, but they will no longer be liable under federal law if they properly release it.

JM

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