In July, I summarized patterns I saw in documents obtained by EPIC from the Department of Education. The documents were the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO)’s responses to complaints by students and parents alleging FERPA violations.
Since then, EPIC has received additional interim batches of responses to their freedom of information request. They write:
EPIC has obtained new documents from the Department of Education detailing parent and student complaints about the misuse of education records. The Department released the documents in response to an EPIC Freedom of Information Act request. EPIC is expecting to receive more documents about the agency’s enforcement of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Other documents that EPIC has uncovered reveal that schools and districts have disclosed students’ personal records without consent, possibly in violation of the federal student privacy law. The documents also reveal that the Department failed to investigate many FERPA complaints. For more information, see EPIC: Department of Education’s FERPA Enforcement, EPIC: Student Privacy, and EPIC: Open Government.
I did a quick skim of the newer documents, and it appears to be more of the same type of thing I described in July: FPCO declining to even open investigations of almost all of the complaints because the complainants allegedly either misunderstood FERPA or had not provided enough facts to convince FPCO that there was a violation to investigate, or because the complaint was not timely.
I’ll continue reading – and analyzing – the responses, and I anticipate EPIC will provide their own detailed analysis once all records are received.
In the meantime, if you care about student privacy, reading these files can lead to only one conclusions FERPA needs to be significantly strengthened or re-written from the ground up, because the only thing missing from FPCO’s boilerplate denials was to say “In this best of all possible worlds, everything is for the best.”