The student is deceased. How does FERPA apply?

Today’s Daily Dawg was prompted by a story I read in the newspaper about a tussle over the release of the educational records of a student who later committed a mass murder.  The former student was killed in the incident.  Can the school release the student’s grades, test scores, special education status? 

According to the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), it depends on how old the student was at the time of death.  FERPA rights transfer from parent to student when the student turns 18 or is otherwise emancipated into adult status by state law.  If the student holds the FERPA rights at the time of death, the FERPA rights die with the student and the school may release the student’s records.  That’s the case as far as FERPA is concerned, but remember, there are other privacy protections to be considered. So call your lawyer on this one. 

If the FERPA rights had not transferred to the student at the time of death, then they still belong to the parents. In that case, any disclosure of personally identifiable information from those records would require parent consent, unless some other FERPA-exception applied.  I got all this from Letter to Parker, issued by FPCO on February 20, 2009.  The letter is at 109 LRP 25215. 

That’s a dreary subject to end the week on.  So I hope you will tune in to Zooming with the Dawg where we promise some more uplifting, albeit still legally accurate information.  Among other things we are going to talk about the role of teacher organizations in Texas.  We zoom at 10.  Be there or be square!