The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children’s education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student (“eligible student”). The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99
No, spouses of eligible students have no rights under FERPA. Before a college or university discloses information from a student’s education records to his or her spouse, the student would have to provide written consent.
The term "parent" is defined as including natural parents, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.
An “eligible student” means a student who has reached the age of 18 or who is attending a postsecondary institution at any age. Once a student becomes an “eligible student,” the rights afforded his or her parents under FERPA transfer to that student.
Source: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(d)
FERPA applies to educational agencies or institutions that receive funds from programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education. By “educational agencies or institutions” we mean public schools, school districts (or “local educational agencies” (LEAs)), and postsecondary institutions, such as colleges and universities. Private and parochial schools at the elementary and secondary level generally do not receive such funding and are, therefore, not subject to FERPA.
Education records are records that are directly related to a student and that are maintained by an educational agency or institution or a party acting for or on behalf of the agency or institution. These records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), student financial information (at the postsecondary level), and student discipline files. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.
Source: 34 CFR § 99.2 “Education Records” and “Record”
In some cases, a stepparent may be considered a “parent” under FERPA if the stepparent is present on a day-to-day basis with the natural parent and child and the other parent is absent from that home. Conversely, a stepparent who is not present on a day-to-day basis in the home of the child does not have rights under FERPA with respect to the child’s education records. A grandparent or other caregiver who is acting in the absence of the parent(s) may also be considered a “parent” under FERPA.
Source: 34 CFR § 99.3