FERPA Violation?

4 years ago a student accused another student of rape (when she was a freshmen - she is now a senior). It was handled through the courts. Now a teacher who was not involved in the initial incident at all and has never had the student made a comment in class that she did "not believe" the rape story. She only knew of the rape because she knew the accused at the time and no information was obtained through educational records. Is this a violation of FERPA? We can agree that it was not appropriate, but there is a question of whether it was a violation of FERPA. Per [url=http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html]FERPA for Students[/url]... We find this...."FERPA generally prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records. Thus, information that an official obtained through personal knowledge or observation, or has heard orally from others, is not protected under FERPA. This remains applicable even if education records exist which contain that information, unless the official had an official role in making a determination that generated a protected education record." Which seems to stat that this would NOT be a FERPA violation.What is the name of your state (only U.S. law)?

Prescott, AZ -

Attorney Answers (2)

Christine C McCall

Christine C McCall

Administrative Law Lawyer - Pasadena, CA
Answered

Based on what info you have provided, it does not seem likely that this matter involves a FERPA violation. You have stated that the sexual assault matter was handled through the courts. All matter and information that came out in the court proceeding was presumably public record (possible exception of the proceeding was a closed juvenile matter). If there is a criminal conviction on the record (you have not stated) then that, too, is a matter of public record. Nothing that you have identified as being said by the teacher would necessarily have been derived from school/educational records and you have stated that "no info" was obtained from educational records. On that basis there would not be a FERPA violation, nor a preliminary showing of one sufficient to trigger an investigation.

Additionally, it is arguable whether a statement reflecting personal views about the credibility of a witness, complainant, or position by the State in a criminal proceeding, constitutes a FERPA-applicable disclosure. Very likely not, at least not standing alone. The mere fact that two persons involved in an event that results in a criminal prosecution does not cause the matter to become an issue of school or educational institution concern or responsibility. Nor does that fact necessarily cause the applicability of FERPA.

However, to the extent that you are wrong in any of the premises stated here, for example if you are wrong that the info disclosed by the teacher did not come from educational records, the result and analysis may well be different. Analyses here on Avvo necessarily rest on the accuracy of the premises set forth by the question.

My responses to questions on Avvo are never intended as legal advice and must not be relied upon as legal advice.... more
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Todd Bruce Kotler

Todd Bruce Kotler

Education Law Attorney - Massillon, OH
Answered

I agree with Attorney Mccall. Assuming that the teacher "knew the accused at the time and no information was obtained through educational records". Then no educational was compromised.

It sounds like the alleged rape was a matter of public discussion as well. Thus, even if this involved a closed juvenile hearing, the statements made publicly (that is outside of court) by the accused or alleged victim are all fair game.

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