FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99. According to FERPA, all parents have certain rights regarding access to their children's educational records. These rights include equal access to their child's educational records, the right to seek the correction of any inaccurate or misleading information contained in their child's records, and the right to prevent the disclosure of information contained in their child's educational records under certain circumstances.
It is important for all parents, both custodial and non-custodial, to be aware of their rights according to FERPA, because under FERPA, all parents enjoy the rights listed above, regardless of whether a parent shares legal custody of their child with the other parent. This is because FERPA defined the word "parent" as a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian. Thus, under FERPA, a parent has the right to access their child's educational records, despite not having legal custody or final decision making authority regarding educational issues. Put another way, neither the school district, nor the custodial parent, has the right to deny a non-custodial parent's request to access their child's educational records. The only way a parent would be deprived of this right is in cases where a court order exists that specifically revokes this right.
It is generally uncommon for court's to specifically preclude one parent's access to their child's educational records. So, if you are a parent who has been denied access to your child's educational records, please know that you are entitled to access according to this important federal law. Keep in mind though, only report cards, standardized test information, individualized education program plans, and similar information are considered educational records. Information such as this may be requested. On the other hand, general information regarding your child's progress in school, lunch menus, PTA information, school calendars and extracurricular activity calendars are not considered educational records, and may not be demanded under FERPA.