Student Privacy: It’s the Law.

Aug 15, 2017

If your students are anything like the students I know, all exciting experiences require a Facebook or Instagram post, followed by the popular 140-character tweet. Often, the same is true for adults. Take heed before posting pictures from classroom fieldtrips: The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) may impede the social sharing habits of you and your students.

FERPA governs students’ educational records in public schools or schools that receive public funding. The term “educational records” has broad reach; no matter how trivial the data—and regardless of whether it’s electronic or handwritten—student records are protected by law.

Despite FERPA’s reach, there are exceptions. For instance, health care records can be shared when internal communications regarding confidential student health information are needed for legitimate educational purposes. Additionally, educational institutions can disclose pertinent information to contractors, volunteers or other nonemployees performing services for the educational institution when there is a legitimate educational or safety interest at issue. These exceptions are highly regulated.

Although this all may sound prohibitive, rest assured there are ways to safely post on social media. If you wish to promote school fieldtrips through pictures and videos, a formal release signed by the parents of minor students can grant you this permission. While some schools ask for such a release as part of their start-of-the-year registration paperwork, never assume this has been done. Rather, all travel group leaders should verify the existence of release documents.

Click here to read more on this important topic in Teach & Travel magazine.