Protecting Student Data Privacy: A Guide to FERPA Compliance

You should know that student data privacy is very important thing that your educational institution needs to protect. That is why, it is important for your institution to keep up with FERPA compliance that can help you to secure your students’ data.

FERPA Compliance

What is FERPA Compliance?

With FERPA the parents right also guaranteed so they can make the right decision for the children’s education until the children is 18 years old or they attend education school higher than high school. 

When that happened then they will be ineligible student for FERPA. However, the FERPA rights does not necessarily happened simultaneously for students and parents and the transfer from parents into students can happened when specified. 

FERPA Requirements and Educational Rights

There are a few educational rights that the eligible students and their parents have according to FERPA such as:

  • Eligible students and their parents have right to view and access student’s record anytime that they want for free. But the school itself actually not required in providing copy for the student’s record and if the parents want to get a copy, then the school may charge for a fee.
  • Eligible students and their parents have the right to request correction for the student’s record that they think as misleading or inaccurate. If school doesn’t comply with the request, then the eligible students or their parents can then make a request for formal hearing. When this is still unsatisfactory then eligible students or their parents also have the right to add their own explanatory statements into the record.
  • The educational institution can only release the education records as long as they have written permission directly from the eligible students or their parents for student data privacy. 

But in FERPA there are a few instances where the educational institution is allowed to release the education record information without having to get written consent as long as it is released for certain parties. 

For example, they are allowed to give information about the students to other institution where the student will transfer and official which involved in managing safety and health emergencies. 

Here is the complete list of the parties for which the educational institution is allowed to release the education record information without having to get written consent:

  • Other educational institution as long as there is legitimate reason related with the student’s education
  • Officials for the purpose of specific auditing or any other evaluation
  • Institution that gives financial aid for the students
  • Organization that provides accreditation
  • Official from government that has appropriate subpoenas or judicial orders
  • Officials that deal with safety and health during emergencies
  • Local and state authorities for juvenile justice

More on The Student’s Education Record

The student’s education record is defined by FERPA as:

  • Record that relates directly to the student
  • Record that are maintained by agency, educational institution or third party that act for their behalf
  • The Record can be of any medium and format which include audio, video, and paper format.

The exception for these records is notes that that are created for personal as well as any student record that maintained and created by law enforcement.

The Importance of FERPA Compliance for Educational Institution

Hackers often target student information that is why, federal law requires the educational institution to have a good student data privacy security according to specific standard that can be used to protect the student interest.

If your educational institution fails to comply with their requirements then it can result in various penalties with significant values such as employee termination or suspension, federal funding loss, fines and even disciplinary action directly from the US ED. 

However, FERPA itself doesn’t explicitly explain on the things that the educational institution should do to implement information and data privacy. So this means that this federal law is actually design to focus on protecting the student’s privacy using any means.

The FERPA regulation itself applies to all educational institution that are publicly funded and receiving funds from applicable US ED program such as:

  • Public elementary or primary educational institution
  • Middle or secondary as well as high educational institution
  • Postsecondary educational institution as well as higher establishments, universities and colleges

It is important to note that parochial or private educational institution that are under the postsecondary level generally are exempt from FERPA regulation since they usually also do not receive funding from the federal.

Read More What Is GDPR: A Comprehensive Guide To Data Protection

Guide to Comply with FERPA to Protect Student Data Privacy

Following cybersecurity frameworks

For any educational institution that want to comply with FERPA then it is better for you to follow cybersecurity framework that already established and designed for data privacy such as:

  • CIS controls
  • ISO 27001

These cybersecurity frameworks are commonly used by other industry to comply with data privacy security standard so it can help to create the roadmap needed for educational institution that can be used for FERPA compliance as well as other data privacy regulation and lows including FTC COPPA 1998 and CIPA 2000.

Use anti-malware, antivirus, and firewall software

For the first defense line against attack and hackers that try to gain access into your educational institution system you need to use anti-malware, antivirus, and firewall software.

These are the basic protection that you can put in your system to protect the student data privacy. By using anti-malware and antivirus software then your institution system can have addition protection that can help to protect you from malicious program used to steal data. 

The firewalls can help to regulate the outgoing and incoming traffics inside your network using the settings that are determined by your network administrator. If your network does not have proper firewalls then your system and the devices inside the system are exposed completely which can put your entire educational institution system to potential attack. 

Perform risk assessment

For cybersecurity audit you need to perform risk assessment to help identifying gaps that happened in the IT security, process and controls inside the system. You should also review the security policies that you create for student data privacy and how the data is handled periodically. 

Furthermore, you also need to make sure that all of your staff and teachers have the right understanding about how important the student data privacy is and that they handle the data in secure manner. 

A lot of FERPA compliance violations are occur because of the lack of understanding about the privacy laws and because the educational institution does not communicate their student data privacy policies. Thus, performing this assessment can help you identify those problem and address it accordingly.

Use data encryption technology

It is important for you to use data encryption technology. In fact it can be considered as the first protection that your education institution should implement for FERPA compliance. With encryption the students’ data can be protected from unauthorized parties and hackers so they cannot access critical data since they do not have the decryption key.

All student educational record should be encrypted when stored, used and in transit especially when you use large number of physical devices to perform those activities. 

Use access control

It is important for you to have access control policy on your educational institutional to limit the access so the student data can only be access by authorized parties. That way if any school official or staff does not have legitimate or clear reason for them to gain access on the student record then they are blocked and prevent for seeing the record.

To create the policy you need to define their access using assigns permissions that are based on the person role inside the educational institution. That way, it can help to prevent data sharing between parties inside your institution

Log, audit and monitor the network activities

You need to log all of the users’ activities that are done inside the school network so you can have a record of all of the data type that are access, how often they are viewed, the time when the data was viewed, as well as the person who access the data. 

This is also useful during data breach event so the IT department can detect the source of when and where the entry is done. This include when the data was compromised, and where was the entry point used. That way, it can help them in preparing for damage control.

Perform annual update to keep comply with FERPA

FERPA regulation state that education institution must give stakeholders an annual update about their FERPA rights as well as the choice for them to opt-out from data disclosure if they want to. The stakeholders in this regard are the eligible students and their parents. 


As you can see student data privacy is very important thing that your educational institution must protect. If you fail to do so, then there will be major consequences that your institution has to face. That is why, you need to follow FERPA compliance guide that we have here to safeguard the student’s data.

Tags: student data privacy, FERPA compliance, student data privacy security, FERPA compliance regulation, FERPA compliance guide