School Law Bulletin #2005/03

Students as Research Subjects: The Privacy Rights of Students and Their Families

Saturday, January 1, 2005

From time to time, third parties contact local education agencies (LEAs) seeking to conduct research using students or their education records. At other times LEAs themselves may seek out third parties to conduct research on their students. In these situations federal law imposes a duty to protect the privacy rights of students and students' families.

A recent case of the Ridgewood, New Jersey, Public School System (Ridgewood) presents a range of the legal issues that can arise when students are used as research subjects. Using the Ridgewood case as a starting point, this article discusses the two federal statutes that primarily regulate student privacy: the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). The article also considers constitutional issues that may arise when an LEA allows researchers access to students or student records. It concludes with a discussion of privacy-protection policies an LEA may want to consider in such situations.

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Public Officials - Local and State Government Roles