School Volunteers and FERPA

You’re volunteering to help in your child’s
school? That’s great! This video will help explain some of your
responsibilities to keep the student information you may encounter there safe. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act, or FERPA, is a Federal law that protects personally identifiable information, or PII,
in students’ education records. In addition to FERPA, there may be state or
local student privacy laws that provide additional protections. Remember, Personally Identifiable Information
in this case would be any information that alone, or in combination with other information
would allow a reasonable person in the school community to identify the student. The general rule under FERPA is that students’
education records, which may include electronic files, paper documents, and other records
that include PII, can’t be shared without prior written parental consent. However, FERPA has provisions that may allow
you incidental access to students’ education records that include PII as a school volunteer. And while FERPA only protects PII in students’
education records, it’s a best practice to protect ALL student information. That means you should not share student information
in a conversation, an email. Student Information should only be shared,
for an educational purpose, as part of your volunteer duties, and only with individuals
authorized to receive that information In addition, you should take special care when
handling student information to avoid accidental disclosure of PII. For example, let’s say you’re helping
a teacher enter course grades into the district’s computerized student information system. The students’ grades in this system are
protected as education records under FERPA. What can you do to protect this student information
and keep it confidential? FERPA requires the school to use “reasonable
methods” to ensure you only gain access to the PII from students’ education records
that you need to perform your volunteer duties. Under most circumstances you’re volunteering
for Mr. Smith’s math class, you shouldn’t have access to other PII from the students’
education records, such as their grades from Mr. Roberts’ reading class. You should make certain others can’t view
the grades that you are entering. If you are given access to the school’s
computer system, you should keep your password confidential and log out when you’re finished. Don’t create a personal copy of the information,
and don’t discuss what you’ve seen with others. Keep the student information in a safe place
where it cannot be accessed by others. Finally, be sure you return all materials
that contain PII to the teacher. Volunteers are important in helping schools
operate efficiently, and now you know your role in protecting student information while
helping out in your school. If you have any questions, ask a school official
or contact the Privacy Technical Assistance Center.

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