KingSpry | FERPA Precautions Virtual Communication During COVID-19

Districts Are Reminded to Take Precautions Regarding Privacy During Era of Virtual Participation and Communication

Posted on April 15th, 2020
by Rebecca A. Young

Schools are engaging with students and families via virtual communication tools during the government-ordered closure. 

A review of privacy measures is recommended.

In a previous article, we provided guidance to schools regarding videoconferencing questions for online education.  While clearly, the use of virtual classroom technologies does not present a de facto FERPA concern, schools must select and use each platform wisely.

Staff and students should be reminded that recording any live school-related communication is prohibited. Further, expectations regarding limits for third party involvement in a group discussion must be clear.

As most communication with parents is now being done via email, schools must remember to implement existing protocols.  We are reminded of a 2019 Student Privacy Policy Office decision. There, an email containing private student information was sent to a parent’s work email address. The work email was not listed on the student’s registration form. Further, the email account was accessible to 16 other individuals. The school was directed to retrain all staff on FERPA’s nondisclosure requirements.

Bottom Line for Schools

In the current environment, schools would do well to ensure that parent email addresses are confirmed to be private and that parent preferences regarding which email address to use are updated and followed.

If you have a question, please contact your legal counsel or one of the education attorneys at KingSpry.

School Law Bullets are a publication of KingSpry’s Education Law Practice Group. This article is meant to be informational and does not constitute legal advice.