House Floats Major FERPA Overhaul Bill

A bipartisan pair of lawmakers on Monday introduced the "discussion draft" of a bill to rewrite the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Education Week reported. Reps. John Kline (R-MN), chairman of the U.S. House Education & the Workforce Committee, and Robert Scott (D-VA), the panel's ranking member, floated the informal proposal as a potential complement to the White House-backed Student Digital Privacy Act.

In January, President Obama called for federal legislation to protect student privacy. The administration's legislative proposal aims to keep companies from misusing student data collected in the course of providing educational services to elementary and secondary schools.

The draft FERPA proposal would extend additional privacy protections to students in higher education.

Under the bill, the definition of what constitutes a student's "educational record" would be expanded to include information that is directly related to an individual student, is maintained "electronically or physically," and is "accessible, collected, used, or maintained by an education service provider in the course of providing services to a school official." The measure would ban using such information for marketing or advertising.

The draft bill would also require that educational agencies enter into written agreements with outside parties handling sensitive student information. Those agreements would be required to have "clear provisions outlining how and what information shall be transferred" and include guarantees around security protocols. Additionally, the legislation would provide parents with new opportunities to access and amend their children's data and opt out of the use of that information for research purposes.

The draft measure would also revamp penalties for FERPA violators, allowing fines of up to $500,000 to be levied on educational service providers that improperly share student information. Current law only allows sanctions for violations by educational agencies through the withholding of federal funds. The new provisions would empower the U.S. Education to levy fines on educational service providers to the tune of $2,000 per student, up to a maximum of $500,000.

The release of the discussion draft is meant to give advocates, educators, parents, industry representatives, researchers, and others time to debate and offer feedback on such provisions. There is no timetable for introducing the bill in the House; whether it moves forward will likely depend on what kind of reaction the draft proposal generates, according to Education Week.


Related Links

Discussion Draft

Education Week