Appendix B

Do Campuses Have a Right to Inform Parents about Alcohol-Related Incidents? The Facts on FERPA

FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (formerly the Buckley Amendment, passed in 1974) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.374 The law applies to all schools that receive funds from the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records; however, these rights are transferred to the student when s/he reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.165,375

The 1998 amendment to FERPA (section 952 of the Higher Education Reauthorization Act or HERA) was passed to allow, but not require, parental notification when students under age 21 are found responsible for alcohol or drug violations.373 HERA supports greater disclosure and communication between institutions of higher education and parents and is the foundation of parental notification policies and practices.165

When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, all rights afforded the parent under FERPA transfer to the student (“eligible student”). However, FERPA provides ways in which a school may—but is not required to—share information from an eligible student’s education records with parents, without the student’s consent.

For example:

  • Schools may disclose education records to parents if the student is claimed as a dependent for tax purposes.
  • Schools may disclose education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter.
  • Schools may inform parents if the student, if s/he is under age 21, has violated any law or policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  • A school official may generally share information with a parent that is based on that official’s personal knowledge or observation of the student. Helpful information for parents can be found in the U.S. Department of Education’s Parents’ Guide to FERPA.365

FERPA permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent when the disclosure is to the parents of a student at a postsecondary institution regarding the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.365,374 The school may non-consensually disclose information under this exception if the school determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to that use or possession and the student is under 21 years of age at the time of the disclosure to the parent.

In 2014, Maryland Collaborative published a fact sheet for college administrators on FERPA and parental notification. For more information and to view fact sheets on other topics, please visit

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