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Education Data

This information is designed to help parents and students with their questions about the collection and use of education data. Education data are governed by state law (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32). Education data are also governed by federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and its federal regulations.

Note: Minnesota law uses the phrase educational data to describe data related to students maintained by a public school and federal law uses the phrase education records. This document uses the phrase education data to refer to both the federal and state laws. Education data can be in any form including handwriting, print, electronic data, video, etc.

What are education data?

Education data are maintained by a public educational agency or institution and relate to a student or parent, and include health data of students under age 18. Data held by contractors performing an institutional service or function are also education data.

Who can access my student’s education data?

In general, education data are classified as private under state law in Minnesota. Federal law also generally protects the privacy rights of parents and students. Mostly only parents, students, and school officials may access education data, but there are several exceptions (e.g., directory information, health and safety emergencies, alcohol and controlled substance violations).

Who is a school official?

Each school determines who qualifies as a “school official.” School officials are allowed access to private education data without the consent of the parent or student, if they have a legitimate educational interest (as determined by the educational agency). This is an exception to the general rule that education data are private and may not be disclosed without consent. Also, the annual FERPA notice must identify who outside the school is also a school official.

What is directory information?

“Directory information” is defined by FERPA as certain education data that are available to anyone in the public. Under federal law, the school must notify parents each year which education data it decides are “directory information.” Parents have the right to refuse (“opt-out”) to let the school include any of their student’s data as directory information; the annual notice to parents must explain how they can refuse. Examples of directory information are: a student’s name, home address, telephone number, email address, photograph, date and place of birth, enrollment status and major field of study. Social Security Numbers are not allowed to be included as “directory information” (Advisory Opinion 04-024).

Can non-custodial parents get access to their child’s education data?

Yes, parents get access to their child’s education data even if the child doesn’t live with the parent, unless there is a state law, court order or other legal reason that doesn’t allow it (i.e., a parent’s rights have been terminated) (Advisory Opinion 05-006).

Can students give consent for the release of their education data?

Once a student turns 18 or enters a post-secondary institution, a parent’s right to give consent transfers to the student. Until that time, the student may not give consent to the release of his/her education data. Parents may still access the education data if the student is claimed as a dependent on a parent’s income tax return.

Can I get information about my student’s teachers?

Yes, parents can access certain data about teachers. Minnesota Statutes, 13.43, subdivision 2, lists the data that are public about government employees. This includes a teacher’s name, salary, education and training, job location, and work telephone number.

Can military recruiters access my student’s education data?

This can be a confusing question because state and federal law don’t match. Though Minnesota law seems to require schools to disclose the names, addresses, and home telephone numbers of students in grades 11 and 12 to military recruiters, federal law has limited the disclosure of this information. In general, if: 1) the school has designated those items as directory information; 2) the parent has not refused to allow a school to disclose directory information; and 3) the parent has not opted out of disclosure to military recruiters, then the school may disclose name, address, and home telephone number. Schools must offer parents the opportunity to say no to both disclosures, and if the parent opts out of either, a school must get parental consent to disclose the data to military recruiters (Advisory Opinion 01-078).

My student attends a private school, does Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32 apply to us?

In general, unless the school is under contract with a government entity, the Data Practices Act does not apply to private schools. The federal law, FERPA, applies to a private school only if that private school receives funds from the U.S. Department of Education.

My student’s teacher took notes on a presentation that my student gave. Can I have access to those notes?

Under both federal and state law, teachers’ (or substitutes’) notes that they don’t share with anyone else – commonly called “desk drawer notes” – are not considered government data and cannot be accessed as part of a data request. Under state law, these notes must be destroyed at the end of each school year.

A related topic - under state law, notes made by "supervisors, administrators or related personnel" are considered government data so parents can access those notes.

Can I see surveillance videos of students and school staff?

Surveillance videos maintained by a school are likely private education data. The videos could be public if the school has designated surveillance videos as directory information in its annual FERPA notice. If school staff members are the subjects of a video or portions of a video, those images are personnel data (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43) and may be public or private, depending on what the images show. Minnesota courts and Advisory Opinion 07-016 provide some guidance (public data may be withheld if it’s not possible to separate the public data from private data; school video from an event open to the public is public).

Sharing of Education Data

Sometimes schools must or may share education data with other units of government. They also may share education data when a student transfers to another school.

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