Law Office of Michelle Ball Federal Laws,records Student Records Problems? Contact The Student Privacy Policy Office

Student Records Problems? Contact The Student Privacy Policy Office

School records students

Last Updated on July 27, 2022 by Michelle Ball

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

Have you ever had a problem getting your or your child’s student records from a school?  Or, have you encountered school staff speaking about confidential student records in public locations or to other parents?  If so, there is an agency which may be able to help: 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) and is 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 and breaches with regard to student records. 

What Schools Will the Student Privacy Policy Office Investigate?

Complaints are accepted by SPPO from across the country regarding public and private schools which breach students’ records rights.  FERPA only applies to schools accepting federal funds, so private schools at the elementary and secondary levels may not be subject to FERPA.  

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 way to go but at least it is somewhere a parent can seek help outside their own school.  

So, if your requests for student records have been denied, a teacher is spreading confidential information they could only have gotten from student records (e.g. special education or discipline information), or the school will not provide a process for you to challenge the factual contents of student records, a complaint lodged with 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]