FERPA Amended to Let Schools Release Student Records to Foster Care Workers

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On New Year's Day the House of Representatives passed the Uninterrupted Scholars Act , S. 3472 that amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to allow schools to release a student's records without parental consent to "an agency caseworker or other representative of a state or local child welfare agency, or tribal organization ... when such agency or organization is legally responsible... for the care and protection of the student." Additionally,  if the parent is a party to a court proceeding involving child abuse and neglect or dependency matters, and the court orders the records released, the school can release the records without notifying the parent.

The intent of the legislation is to allow children in foster care to move from school to school as seamlessly as possible. Unfortunately, children in foster care are often subjected to frequent moves and it was thought that FERPA had unintentionally prevented schools from sharing educational records with social workers. This had resulted in inappropriate placements, enrollment delays, delayed graduation, repeated classes, and dropouts. While the bill allows schools to release records, it does not require the schools do so. Like most of the requirements in FERPA, the release of records is permissive and not mandatory. The bill is expected to be signed into law by President Obama.