SCHOOL LAW ADVISORY
Volume 30, No. 1
One of the many complicated issues facing schools in today’s environment is how to maintain a cooperative relationship with law enforcement authorities while satisfying obligations to maintain the confidentiality of student and personnel information, and otherwise protecting the rights of students and employees. Law enforcement authorities often look to schools to provide access to student and personnel information as part of ongoing investigations. For example, it is not uncommon for law enforcement authorities to ask a school to provide parent contact information for a student, or to request to speak with a student while she or he is in school. Although these requests often seem simple enough, each situation is unique, and there are usually various rights and considerations that come into play that schools should be aware of as they attempt to work collaboratively with law enforcement authorities. Some of the most common situations where issues arise are discussed in more detail below. Also, while many schools have school resource officers, “SROs”, embedded in the school community, and the relationship with the SRO sometimes generates similar situations to those discussed here, this article is not intended to address SROs, and instead focuses on the relationship between schools and outside law enforcement agencies.
A Brief Confidentiality Refresher
Before discussing specific scenarios where law enforcement authorities may be looking to schools for information or access to students, it is helpful to briefly review the school obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), which is the primary federal law protecting the privacy of student education records and personally identifiable information in those records. Generally, student education records must remain confidential pursuant to FERPA. Under FERPA, “education records” are those records that are (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by a school or other educational agency or institutions. FERPA generally prohibits schools from disclosing student education records and information contained in those records without the written consent of a parent (or the student if the student is an “eligible student” under the law (most are not).1 There are, however, certain limited circumstances in which schools can disclose student education records and/or their information without consent, some of which may be relevant when dealing with information requests from law enforcement agencies. They include... to continue reading, visit https://schoollaw.com/school-law-advisory.