On Monday, the White House announced that President Donald Trump’s school security plan also includes a review of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
It falls under his mental health reform proposal part of the plan. He is “proposing an expansion and reform of mental health programs, including those that help identify and treat individuals who may be a threat to themselves or others.”
The plan includes “increased integration of mental health, primary care, and family services, as well as support for programs that utilize court-ordered treatment.”
Along with FERPA he is calling for a review of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and other statutory and regulatory privacy protections.
The White House said, “Reviews will determine if any changes or clarifications are needed to improve coordination between mental health and other healthcare professionals, school officials, and law enforcement personnel.”
There are obvious privacy concerns. FERPA needs to be strengthened and the White House’s goal is the opposite of that.
Currently, according to the U.S. Department of Education, FERPA allows schools to disclose a student’s education records, without parental consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- Accrediting organizations;
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
They are also allowed to share “directory” information such as: a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance without parental consent.
Under FERPA, schools must tell parents and eligible students about that directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them.