With the start of the 2014-2015 school year upon us, schools routinely post the class assignments in the public domain enabling other students and/or parents access to this information. Many parents have expressed concern that such posting before the first day of class of the student’s name, room number, and the names of the students assigned to a particular teacher violates the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ( FERPA)(20 U.S.C. §1232g; 34 CFR Part 99). FERPA requires that schools have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from the student’s record unless the circumstance or the particular party to whom the information is being released fall under one of the enumerated exceptions. See 34 CFR §99.31.
The simple act of posting the classroom assignment raises the following issues: Is the class list a student record and therefore parent or eligible student consent is required to disclose? May the class list be classified as directory information? Is the school releasing confidential information without parent/eligible student permission if the class list is classified as directory information? The answer to the first two questions is “yes” and the answer to the third question is “no”.
Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA, which includes the right to disclose directory information without consent. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school. Therefore, a practical solution to this potential FERPA violation is for Districts to include classroom and teacher assignment in their policy’s list of directory information thereby removing such information as being classified as confidential student record information that may not be disclosed without consent. However, schools must allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information. If the student classroom assignments are posted prior to the start of the school year, have the parents and eligible students been afforded a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information? Probably not. Therefore, districts may want to avoid any public posting of classroom/teacher assignments and provide the information to individual households.