Mary Smith just made the Honor Roll. Can her
school share the good news? Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy
Act, or FERPA, kindergarten through 12th grade parents or students 18 or older, generally
must provide consent before public schools and districts can share personally identifiable
information from students’ education records. One of the exceptions to this rule is for
the disclosure of properly designated directory information. Schools and districts can designate
certain basic student information as directory information, and share that information without
consent if certain additional requirements are met.
Why would schools and districts want to use directory information? Because they want to
include information about students in certain publications, such as student directories,
annual yearbooks, honor rolls, graduation programs, playbills for theater productions,
or sport programs. Schools and districts may also want to provide
directory information to outside organizations that provide services for students, such as
companies that manufacture class rings, take student photos, or publish yearbooks.
So how can this be done? Under FERPA , before sharing directory information, a school or
district must first identify the students’ personally identifiable information considered
to be directory information, such as the student’s name, address, telephone listing, email address,
photograph, date and place of birth, grade level, participation in officially recognized
activities and sports; the weight and height of members of athletic teams, and degrees,
honors, and awards received by the student. It is important to note that information contained
in an education record that would generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy
if disclosed, such as Social Security numbers, can never be considered directory information.
Next, the school or district must give public notice of the items designated as directory
information; the right of parents and eligible students to opt out of letting their personal
information be disclosed as directory information; and the deadline by which they must opt out
in writing. What else should we know about directory information?
FERPA allows schools and districts to adopt a limited directory information policy. It’s
okay for a school or district to decide that it wants to disclose directory information
for specific purposes and/or to specific parties. For example, a district could decide to disclose
directory information in a parent directory, but not to disclose that same information
to companies that want to market products to the students and their parents. Under this
policy, the district’s directory information notice should specify the parties that may
receive directory information, and/or specify the purposes for which the information may
be shared. Also, under the directory information exception,
disclosures do not need to be recorded as they do under other FERPA exceptions. For additional information about FERPA and
directory information, including a model notification, please visit the US Department of Education’s
Privacy technical assistance center at ptac.ed.gov and the Family Policy Compliance office at
familypolicy.ed.gov.