Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) & Massachusetts Student Records Regs

  • The release of student record information without written parent/guardian consent is generally prohibited by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which applies to all schools that receive federal funds, as well as the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations, 603 CMR 23.00.  Both FERPA and the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations, however, allow schools to release the names and addresses of students, as well as other “directory” information, without prior parent/guardian consent, provided they give notice that it is their policy to release such information and that they notify parents and eligible students of their right to request that this information not be released without their prior written consent.

    FERPA affords parents/guardians and students who are 18 years of age or older (“eligible students”) certain rights with respect to the student’s education records. These rights are:

    • The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day the Falmouth Public Schools receives a request for access. Parents/guardians or eligible students should submit to the Principal a written request that identifies the records they wish to inspect. The school official will arrange for access and notify the parent/guardian or eligible student of the time and place where the records may be inspected.

    • The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent/guardian or eligible student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. Parents/guardians or eligible students who wish to ask the Falmouth Public Schools to amend a record should write the Principal, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the school decides not to amend the record as requested by the parent/guardian or eligible student, the school will notify the parent/guardian or eligible student of the decision and of their right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the parent/guardian or eligible student when notified of the right to a hearing.

    • The right to provide written consent before the school discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without con­sent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the school as an ad­ministrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff member (including health or medical staff and law enforcement unit personnel) or a person serving on the school board. A school official also may include a volunteer or contractor outside of the school who performs an institutional service of function for which the school would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records, such as an attorney, audi­tor, medical consultant, or therapist; a parent/guardian or student volunteering to serve on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee; or a parent/guardian, student, or other volunteer assisting another school official in performing their tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educa­tion record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility. Upon request, the school discloses education records without consent to officials of another school district in which a student seeks or intends to enroll, or is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes of the student’s enrollment or transfer.

    • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the Falmouth Public Schools to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA are:


    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Avenue, SW
    Washington, DC  20202

    FERPA permits the disclosure of PII from students’ education records, without consent of the parent/guardian or eligible student, if the disclosure meets certain conditions found in §99.31 of the FERPA regulations. Except for disclosures to school officials, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, disclosures of directory information, and disclosures to the parent/guardian or eligible student, §99.32 of the FERPA regulations requires the school to record the disclosure. Parents/guardians and eligible students have a right to inspect and review the record of disclosures. A school may disclose PII from the education records of a student without obtaining prior written consent of the parents/guardians or the eligible student:


    • To other school officials, including teachers, within the educational agency or institution whom the school has determined to have legitimate educational interests. This includes contractors, consultants, volunteers, or other parties to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions, provided that the conditions listed in §99.31(a)(1)(i)(B)(1) - (a)(1)(i)(B)(2) are met. (§99.31(a)(1))

    • To officials of another school, school district, or institution of postsecondary education where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer, subject to the requirements of §99.34. (§99.31(a)(2))

    • To authorized representatives of the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities, such as the State educational agency in the parent/guardian or eligible student’s State (SEA). Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the requirements of §99.35, in connection with an audit or evaluation of Federal- or State-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements that relate to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf. (§§99.31(a)(3) and 99.35)

    • In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, determine the amount of the aid, determine the conditions of the aid, or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid. (§99.31(a)(4))

    • To State and local officials or authorities to whom information is specifically allowed to be reported or disclosed by a State statute that concerns the juvenile justice system and the system’s ability to effectively serve, prior to adjudication, the student whose records were released, subject to §99.38. (§99.31(a)(5))

    • To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the school, in order to: (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs; or (c) improve instruction. (§99.31(a)(6))

    • To accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions. (§99.31(a)(7))

    • To parents/guardians of an eligible student if the student is a dependent for IRS tax purposes. (§99.31(a)(8))

    • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. (§99.31(a)(9))

    • To appropriate officials in connection with a health or safety emergency, subject to §99.36. (§99.31(a)(10)

    • Information the school has designated as “directory information” under §99.37. (§99.31(a)(11))

    Directory Information

    FERPA allows Falmouth Public Schools to release certain information about students with parent/guardian consent provided that annual notification has been given and the school does not have on file written denial to release this directory information. Directory Information is information that is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if released. The primary purpose of Directory Information is to allow Falmouth Public Schools to include information from students’ education records in certain school publications. Examples include:


    • A playbill, showing a student’s roll in a drama production;

    • The annual yearbook;

    • Honor Roll or other recognition lists;

    • Graduation programs; and

    • Sports activity sheets, such as for football, showing weight and height of team members.

    In addition, two federal laws require local education agencies (LEAs) receiving assistance under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, as amended (ESEA), to provide military recruiters, upon request, with the following information – names, addresses and telephone listings – unless parents/guardians have advised the LEA that they do not want their student’s information disclosed without their prior written consent.

    Per Falmouth Public Schools Policy JRA-R, the following information is designated as Directory Information:

    • a student’s name;

    • address;

    • telephone listing;

    • date and place of birth;

    • major field of study;

    • dates of attendance;

    • weight and height of members of athletic teams;

    • class;

    • participation in officially recognized activities and sports;

    • degrees;

    • honors and awards; and

    • post-high school plans.


    If a parent/guardian does not want Falmouth Public Schools to disclose any or all of the types of information designated as Directory Information, from their child’s education records without prior consent, the parent/guardian must notify their child’s school in writing. Upon receipt of the document, the school will forward a form seeking additional information related to the request to not disclose any or all types of Directory Information.

    Massachusetts Student Records Regulations

    The Massachusetts Student Records Regulations at 603 CMR 23.00 are intended to insure parents’/guardians’ and students’ rights of confidentiality, inspection, amendment, and destruction of student records and to assist school districts in adhering to the law. 

    The rights afforded by the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations shall be the rights of the student upon reaching 14 years of age or upon entering the ninth grade, whichever comes first. If a student is under the age of 14 and has not yet entered the ninth grade, these rights shall belong to the student’s parents/guardians.  If a student is from 14 through 17 years of age or has entered the ninth grade, both the student and their parents/guardians, or either one acting alone, shall exercise these rights.  If a student is 18 years of age or older, they alone shall exercise these rights, subject to the following:  

    The parents/guardians may continue to exercise the rights until expressly limited by such student. Such student may limit the rights and provisions of 603 CMR 23.00 which extend to their parents/guardians, except the right to inspect the student record, by making such request in writing to their school’s Principal or to the Superintendent of Schools who shall honor such request and retain a copy of it in the student record. Pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, section 34E, the parents/guardians of a student may inspect the student record regardless of the student's age.

    Please refer to the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations at 603 CMR 23.00 for a complete description of said regulations.

    Information to Charter Schools/Third Party Mail Houses

    Pursuant to Massachusetts state law, specifically, M.G.L. c. 71, § 89(g) and 603 CMR 1.05(6)(e), upon receipt of a request from a Commonwealth charter school, the Falmouth Public Schools is required to release within 30 days of the request the names and addresses of public school students to a third party mail house that has been approved by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary & Secondary Education so that the Commonwealth charter school may send recruiting information to prospective students who are eligible to enroll in the charter school.  If a parent/guardian or eligible student does not want the school district to release this information without their prior consent, the parent/guardian or student must notify their school’s Principal in writing within the first 3 weeks of school each year.  If no such written notice is received from the parent/guardian or eligible student, the school district will comply with all appropriate requests for contact information from Commonwealth charter schools.  The Massachusetts Student Records Regulations at 603 CMR 23.02 define “eligible student” as “any student who is 14 years of age or older or who has entered 9th grade. . . .”