Vermont Privacy of School Records Laws

Federal law and Vermont state law require public school records be kept confidential, ensuring they aren’t unnecessarily disclosed. The two main federal laws regarding the privacy of school records are the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). Vermont schools must follow these laws and can’t disregard them because federal laws trump state laws. Here is an overview of privacy of school records laws in Vermont.

Vermont Law Concerning Privacy Of School Records

FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.

Written Consent

Schools can’t release student educational records without written consent of the parent, except as listed below. If a school needs written parental or guardian consent to release personally identifiable student academic records, they must provide the parent or guardian the following information:

  • Records to be released
  • Reason(s) for the release
  • Organization or individual requesting the records
  • Manner the records will be released (electronic, paper, etc.)
  • Right to review or receive a copy of the records released

The Role of PPRA

PPRA protects parent and student rights by requiring schools make available for inspection instruction materials, surveys, and evaluations that students could be asked to participate in. Also, PPRA makes schools get written consent from parents or guardians before students are required to participate in the surveys or evaluations. Student assessments on any of the following issues can only be conducted with the prior written consent of the student’s parent:

  • Political or religious affiliations or beliefs
  • Mental conditions
  • Sexual behaviors
  • Criminal or self-incriminating behaviors
  • Critical appraisals of the student’s close relatives or family friends
  • Legally privileged relationships or the equivalent, such as lawyer-student, doctor-student, or clergy-student relationships
  • Income, except as required by law (such as free or reduced school lunch or other public benefits)
  • Social Security Number

The main provisions of Vermont's privacy of school records laws are listed in the following table. See FindLaw's School Privacy section for related articles.

Code Section(s) The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99)
Who Has Access to School Records?

FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:

  • 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.
Penalty for Violation of School Record Privacy Laws

A parent or eligible student may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) regarding an alleged violation under of FERPA. The complaint must be timely (submitted to the office within 180 days of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably knew of the violation) and state specific allegations giving reasonable cause to believe that the school has violated FERPA.

Note: State laws surrounding the issues of student privacy rights are constantly changing. You may wish to contact a Vermont education attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching. Most attorneys offer free consultations.

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