Education Data

This information is designed to assist parents and students with questions that they may have about the collection and use of education data.  Education data is governed by state law (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32).  Education data are also governed by federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and its regulations in 34 CFR Part 99. 

Note: Minnesota law uses the phrase educational data to describe data related to students maintained by a public school and federal law uses the phrase education records.  This document will use the phrase education data to cover both the federal and state law phrases.

Who can access my student’s education data?

In general, education data is classified as private under state law in Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 1.  Federal law also generally protects the privacy rights of parents and students.  Subject to several exceptions (e.g., directory information, health and safety emergencies, alcohol and controlled substance violations), education data may only be accessed by parents, students, and school officials with a legitimate educational interest as determined by the educational agency.

Who is a school official?

Each school determines who qualifies as a “school official.”  School officials are allowed access to private education data without the consent of the parent or student, if they have a legitimate educational interest.  This is an exception to the general rule that education data are private and cannot be disclosed without consent.  The annual FERPA notice must also include a list of outside parties that come under the school official exception.

What is directory information?

“Directory information” is a term of art defined by FERPA in 34 CFR 99.3 and refers to certain education data that are available to anyone in the public.  Under Federal law, the school must notify parents each year which education data are designated as “directory information.”  Parents have the right to opt out of including any of their students’ data as directory information; the process for doing so must be included in the school’s annual notice to parents.  Examples of directory information are: a student’s name, address, telephone number, email address, photograph, date and place of birth, enrollment status and major field of study.  Social Security Numbers are not allowed to be included as “directory information.”  (See Advisory Opinion 04-024)

Can a non-custodial parent get access to his/her child’s education data?

Yes.  Unless there is a state law, court order or other legally binding instrument (i.e., a parent’s rights have been terminated) which states otherwise, (see Minnesota Statutes, section 13.02, subdivision 8, and Minnesota Rules 1205.0500, subpart 2(B)), a parent’s custodial status does not bar him/her from accessing his/her child’s education data.  (See also Advisory Opinion 05-006, Minnesota Statutes, section 120A.22, subdivision 1a, 34 CFR 99.4, and Minnesota Rules 1205.0500, subpart 4)

Can students give consent for the release of their education data?

Once a student turns 18 or enters a post-secondary institution, a parent’s right to give consent transfers to the student (34 CFR 99.5).  Until that time, the student may not give consent to the release of his/her education data.  Parents may still access the education data (34 CFR 99.31(a)(8)) even if the right to consent has transferred to the student when the student is claimed as a dependent on a parent’s income tax return.

Can I access information about my student’s teachers?

Yes, parents can access certain data about teachers.  Minnesota Statutes, 13.43, subdivision 2, lists the data that are public about government employees.  This includes a teacher’s name, salary, education and training, job location, and work telephone number.

Can military recruiters access my student’s education data?

This can be a confusing question because of the interaction between state and federal law.  Though Minnesota law seems to require schools to disclose the names, addresses, and home telephone numbers of students in grades 11 and 12 to military recruiters (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.82, subdivision, 5a), federal law has limited the disclosure of this information.  In general, if: 1) the school has designated the those items as directory information; 2) the parent has not opted out of the disclosure of directory information; and 3) the parent has not opted out of disclosure to military recruiters, then the school may disclose those three items (name, address, and home number). Schools must offer parents the opportunity to opt out of both disclosures.  If the parent has opted out of either, a school would need parental consent in order for military recruiters to access that data. (See Advisory Opinion 01-078.)

My student attends a private school, does Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32 apply to us?

In general, unless the school is under contract with a government entity, the provisions of Minnesota Statutes, Chapter 13 do not apply to private schools.  The federal law, FERPA, applies to private schools only if that private school receives funds from the U.S. Department of Education.

My student’s teacher took notes on a presentation that my student gave.  Can I have access to those notes?

Under both federal and state law, teachers’ (or substitutes’) notes – commonly called “desk drawer notes” – are not considered government data and cannot be accessed as part of a data request.  (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 1; 34 CFR 99.3) Under state law, these notes must be destroyed at the end of each school year.

A related topic - under state law, notes made by "supervisors, administrators or related personnel" are considered government data so parents can access those notes.

Who has access to surveillance videos of students and school staff?

Surveillance videos maintained by a school are likely private education data. The videos could be public if the school has designated surveillance videos as directory information in its annual FERPA notice. If school staff are the subject of a video or portions of a video, those images are personnel data (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.43) and may be public or private, depending on what the images depict. Minnesota courts and Advisory Opinion 07-016 provide some guidance (public data may be withheld where public and not public data are so inextricably intertwined so as to make redaction impossible; school video from an event open to the public is public).