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FERPA and Virtual Learning Related Resources

As educators and students move to virtual learning during this time of social distancing due to COVID-19, the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) has received questions about available resources on virtual learning and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is the federal law that protects the privacy of personally identifiable information (PII) in students’ education records. “Education records” are those records that are: (1) directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. FERPA provides parents and eligible students the right to access a student’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to protect the PII in students’ education records. (An “eligible student” is a student who has turned 18 or is attending college at any age.) Under FERPA, an educational agency or institution may not disclose PII from students’ education records, without consent, unless the disclosure meets an exception under FERPA. 20 U.S.C. 1232g; 34 C.F.R. Part 99.

Two key resources on our website are:

These two resources are part of our Security Best Practices, which includes additional resources on safeguarding education records.

There are also additional resources on related topics under FERPA, including classroom observations, use of emails, videos, and other virtual learning tools. Under FERPA, the determination of who can observe a virtual classroom, similar to an in-person classroom, is a local school decision as teachers generally do not disclose personally identifiable information from a student’s education record during classroom instruction. FERPA neither requires nor prohibits individuals from observing a classroom.

Additionally, the recently-released FERPA and the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) FAQs document identifies questions for school officials regarding the health or safety emergency exception under FERPA in the context of COVID-19.

SPPO is available to assist you with your student privacy questionsunder FERPA. Additional information is on our website at https://studentprivacy.ed.gov.

Click on FERPA and Virtual Learning Related Resources for a pdf of this page.

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