While FERPA is commonly viewed by education administrators and private entities seeking educational data as an onerous and burdensome law that requires significant compliance efforts, the fact is that the ultimate federal penalty for FERPA violation has never been levied; no educational agency has ever had its Federal funding suspended because of a FERPA violation.
Lawmakers in Arizona are promoting a new state law that would change this landscape. Arizona Senate Bill 1450 would impose state sanctions for FERPA violations.
The bill, sponsored by State Senator Kimberly Yee provides that:
ANY PERSON WHO SUSPECTS THAT A SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL HAS VIOLATED THE FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT MAY NOTIFY THE PRINCIPAL OF THE CHARTER SCHOOL OR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE SCHOOL DISTRICT. IF THE MATTER IS NOT SATISFACTORILY RESOLVED WITHIN SIXTY DAYS AFTER THE NOTICE, THE PERSON MAY FILE A COMPLAINT WITH THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION OR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION.,,.IF THE STATE BOARD OF EDUCATION OR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF PUBLIC INSTRUCTION DETERMINES THAT THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL HAS FAILED TO CORRECT THE VIOLATION WITHIN SIXTY DAYS AFTER A NOTICE HAS BEEN ISSUED PURSUANT TO THIS SUBSECTION, THE STATE BOARD OR SUPERINTENDENT MAY DIRECT THE DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO WITHHOLD UP TO TEN PER CENT OF THE MONTHLY APPORTIONMENT OF STATE AID THAT WOULD OTHERWISE BE DUE THE SCHOOL DISTRICT OR CHARTER SCHOOL.
While the mechanism for enforcement is analogous to the Federal enforcement mechanism, the penalty is more realistic (ten percent in the AZ version versus all funding in the Federal law), and might be more often applied. AZ SB 1450 might also provide a more effective mechanism for Arizona parents and students to seek redress for privacy violations then the Federal office charged with investigations of FERPA violations provides. If passed, the new bill would also provide another avenue for those who would otherwise sue but for the United States Supreme Court’s 2002 Gonzaga v. Doe decision that held that FERPA provides for no private right of action.
Depending on how things go in AZ, SB 1450 it might serve as a model for other states. What do you think?