Law Office of Michelle Ball Federal Laws,records Parents Denied Records Can Complain To Student Privacy Office

Parents Denied Records Can Complain To Student Privacy Office

School records students

Last Updated on January 12, 2023 by Michelle Ball

By Michelle Ball, Sacramento California Expulsion, Special Education, sports/CIF, College, Education and School Attorney/Lawyer for Students since 1995

Parents can sometimes have problems getting student records from their child’s school or encounter clear breaches of student privacy rights. For example, what if a parent overhears a teacher telling others confidential student information? One agency which could help is the Student Privacy Policy Office (SPPO) [formerly the FPCO, Family Policy Compliance Office]. 

Student records issues
Minor student records should be provided to parents for inspection and review after a proper request is made.

What is the Student Privacy Policy Office?

SPPO is a part of the United States Department of Education (USDOE), located in Washington DC. They enforce the Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law addressing student records rights at schools which accept federal funding.

The SPPO addresses all sorts of breaches with regard to student records and are a resource for parents. 

What Schools Will the Student Privacy Policy Office Investigate?

The SPPO accepts complaints regarding public and private schools and colleges across the US.

As FERPA only applies to schools accepting federal funds, private schools at the elementary and secondary levels may be excluded from SPPO’s reach, depending on their federal funding, or lack thereof. 

What Breaches Does the SPPO Investigate?

Per the USDOE website and the “FERPA General Guidance for Parents,” some of the breaches which SPPO investigates include:

1)  Failure of a school to allow inspection and review of student records by a student and/or his/her parents/representatives.
2)  Failure of a school to provide a process to challenge the factual contents of records (opinions, grades or “substantive decisions” are not subject to challenge).

Student records
Everyone in the room should not know about a student’s confidential files.

3)  Wrongful disclosure of information from confidential records (unless the person learned of the information some other way, had an “official role” in making a decision leading to the protected record, or the school official receiving the information has a “legitimate educational interest”).

4)  Issues involving student/parent permission to disclose/not disclose records. FERPA grants records rights to adult students as well as custodial and non-custodial parents.

Who Holds FERPA Rights?

FERPA grants records rights to adult students as well as custodial and non-custodial parents.

Review by SPPO Takes Time

Be advised that SPPO complaints are not always the fastest and can take time.

So, if a parent’s requests for student records or discipline evidence have been denied, a teacher is spreading confidential information they could only have gotten from confidential student records (e.g. special education or discipline information), or the school will not provide a process to challenge the contents of student records, a complaint lodged with the SPPO may be warranted.  

Student lawyer Michelle Ball represents students across California. As an advocate and attorney in Sacramento, she can help in locations such as Emeryville, Goleta, Solvang, Merced, Ceres, Bakersfield, Los Angeles, Citrus Heights, San Francisco and many other towns.

[originally published 9/17/15]