Last Updated: March 2022
Pearson Virtual Schools USA, its partner schools, programs and affiliates (collectively referred to as “the School”) comply fully with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and Pearson Virtual Schools USA is recognized as a school official as defined by FERPA.
FERPA is a Federal law that is administered by the Family Policy Compliance Office in the U.S. Department of Education (Department). 20 U.S.C. section 1232g; CFR Part 99. FERPA applies to educational agencies and institutions (e.g., schools) that receive funding under any program administered by the Department.
FERPA gives custodial and noncustodial parents alike certain rights with respect to their student’s education records. Unless the School is provided with evidence that there is a court order or State law that specifically provides to the contrary, both custodial and noncustodial parents as well as legal guardians have the right to:
- Access and inspect their student’s education records;
- Request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent, legal guardian or eligible student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA;
- Provide written consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information (PII) from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent; and
- File a complaint with the Department.
When a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution, they become an “Eligible Student” at which point FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student.
The term “education records” is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
An individual or entity may be considered a “school official” if the individual or entity meets the following criteria:
- Performs an institutional service or function for which the School would otherwise use employees;
- Is under the direct control of the School with respect to the use and maintenance of education records;
- Agrees not to disclose the information to any other party; and
- Agrees to only use the information for the purposes for which the disclosure was made.
A school official has a “legitimate educational interest” if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility.
- Right to Inspect Education Records
A parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student has the right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days after the day the School receives a request for access. A parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student who wishes to inspect the student’s education records should submit a written request to the School that identifies the records they wish to inspect. The School will make arrangements for access and notify the parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If copies are requested, the School may charge the requesting party reasonable copying costs.
Parents, legal guardians, and Eligible Students have the right to request and receive from the School the following: (1) an explanation of information in the student's education records; (2) a copy of all or part of the student's education record; and (3) a list of the types and locations of the student's education records collected, maintained, or utilized by the School.
- Right to Request Amendment of Education Records
A parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student has the right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. Parents, legal guardians or Eligible Students who wish to ask the School to amend the student’s education record should submit a written request to the School, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the School decides not to amend the record as requested, the School will notify the parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student of the decision in writing. The parent, legal guardian, or Eligible Student then has the right to request and receive a records hearing review. The request must be made in writing. At this time, additional information shall be provided to the parent, legal guardian, or Eligible Student regarding the hearing procedures.
FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair recordkeeping practices and not to override the accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, or placement determinations. Thus, while FERPA affords a parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student the right to request to amend education records which they believe are inaccurate, this right cannot be used to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about a student. Additionally, if FERPA's amendment procedures are not applicable to a parent, legal guardian, or Eligible Student's request for amendment of education records, the School is not required to hold a hearing in the matter.
- Right to Consent to Disclosure, Except to the Extent FERPA Authorizes Disclosure Without Consent.
A parent, legal guardian, or Eligible Student has the right to provide written consent before the School discloses personally identifiable information (PII) contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
FERPA provides a number of exceptions to the requirement that written consent be obtained prior to the disclosure of PII from a student’s education records. Under these exceptions, the School is permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent. The following are some, but not all, examples of instances that do not require the School to obtain prior written consent to disclose PII from the education records of a student.
- School officials with legitimate educational interests. An individual or entity that meets the criteria set forth in this notification is determined to be a school official with a legitimate educational interest. School officials include the following: persons employed by the School, whether paid or unpaid, administrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff; School Board of Directors members; authorizing bodies or school districts, vendors employed by or under contract with the School, such as an attorney, auditor, consultant, etc.; or a parent, student or volunteer serving in an official School capacity;
- Other schools when a student graduates or transfers. Upon request, the School discloses education records without consent to officials of another school, district, or postsecondary institution where the student seeks or intends to enroll, if the disclosure is for the purpose of the student’s enrollment or transfer;
- Accrediting institutions in order to carry out their accrediting functions;
- Compliance with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in the case of a health or safety emergency;
- State and local authorities within a juvenile system pursuant to applicable state law;
- Parents of an Eligible Student if the student is a dependent for IRS tax purposes; or
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or received.
- Right to File a Complaint
Parents, legal guardians, or Eligible Students who have concerns or questions should e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Additionally, parents, legal guardians, or Eligible Students may file a complaint with the Department:
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202
FERPA permits the School to designate certain information contained in student education records as Directory Information. Directory Information is generally defined as information not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if released.
FERPA permits the School to disclose Directory Information for any purpose to third parties, unless the parent, legal guardian, or Eligible Student has exercised the right to opt-out of the release of Directory Information. A parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student may opt-out of having the student’s Directory Information released by completing the Authorization to Withhold Directory Information Form found in the Permissions Manager section of the Student Information Form (SIF). If an opt-out form is not received within twenty (20) days of the enrollment date (to account for returning students and students enrolling throughout the school year), the School will assume that there is no objection to the release of this designated Directory Information. This is an annual election which occurs during the enrollment or returning student process.
The following information regarding students is considered Directory Information by the School:
- student name
- student city of residence
- student WebMail address
- student telephone number
- student grade level
If an opt-out form is not received, the School will assume that there is no objection to the release of this designated Directory Information.
Note that federal law requires the School to provide military recruiters, upon request, with the following three categories of Directory Information for high school students unless a parent, legal guardian or Eligible Student opts out of such disclosure by completing the Authorization to Withhold Directory Information Form:
- student name
- student address
- student telephone number
Custody and Dependency
FERPA rights are extended to both custodial and noncustodial parents unless the School is provided with a judicial court order, state statute, or legally binding document that specifically provides to the contrary.
For students 18 or older (Eligible Students), the School may provide a parent or legal guardian access to the education records of the Eligible Student if the parent or legal guardian can demonstrate their student’s financial dependency, as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code, by producing their most recent tax return or completing the forms at the Family Compliance Office website. (Note that this does not apply to emancipated minors.) If a parent or legal guardian of a student 18 or older cannot prove financial dependency, their Eligible Student must provide written consent before the School will permit access to the student’s education records.