California Special Education Law

Advocacy Resources, Hearing & Appeal Decisions, Statistics and More for Parents

Privacy & Confidentiality Rights

What privacy and confidentiality rights does my special education student have?

A student’s educational records are confidential under a federal law called FERPA (family education rights and privacy act).

The U.S. Supreme Court, however, has stated that a student’s grades are not “educational records” until they are collected and maintained by the district. In Owasso, peer grading did not violate the students’ privacy rights.

Owasso Indep. Sch. Dist. No. I-011 v. Falvo, 534 U.S. 426 (U.S. 2002)

Even when a district has violated a student’s privacy rights, the student and his or her parents may not sue the district themselves. This is because the Supreme Court has found that FERPA does not create an individual cause of action. Rather, it establishes a procedure whereby other governmental entities enforce students’ privacy rights. So, a parent or child cannot sue a district directly for any privacy violation it commits.

Gonzaga v. Doe, 536 U.S. 273 (U.S. 2002)

In another case, the parent wanted to use a private speech and language provider rather than the school’s speech and language therapist. The court found that requiring the parent to use the school’s speech and language therapist did not constitute a violation of the IDEA. This means that a district is not required to use private service providers as long as the district’s personnel address the student’s needs.

Zasslow v. Menlo Park City Sch. Dist., 60 Fed. Appx. 27 (9th Cir. 2003)