The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA, is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of student education records. FERPA applies to any school receiving federal funding and covers both current and former students.

According to FERPA, an "education record" is almost any record kept by the school about a student or former student. This includes information in writing, print, e-mail, on video or audio tape, microfilm, or in any other form.

FERPA protects three fundamental rights of parents regarding their children's education records:

1. The right to have information contained in a child's education records kept confidential and disclosed only if parents consent in writing to its disclosure in advance.

2. The right to inspect and review a child's education records.

3. The right to seek amendment of records that parents believe to be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of a child's privacy rights.

At age 18, these rights transfer to the student. Each year, every school must notify students of their rights under FERPA. If parents believe that their rights under FERPA have been violated, they may file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education and/or take legal action in the form of a federal civil rights lawsuit.

Details of FERPA may be found at www.ed.gov/offices/OM/fpco/index.html. A sample complaint letter if your child's school doesn't comply with FERPA can be found at http://comnet.org/sac/ferpa.htm.