Data Sharing Between Law Enforcement and Schools

This is a summary of some of the provisions in state and federal law that relate to sharing education data in the context of school safety and law enforcement.

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.

What are education data?

Education data are maintained by a public educational agency or institution and relate to a student or parent, and include health data of students under age 18. Data held by contractors performing an institutional service or function are also education data. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivisions 1 and 2 and the regulations implementing the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 34 CFR 99.3)

  • Disciplinary data. FERPA allows a school to include as education data, disciplinary action for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of the student, other students, or other members of the school community. (20 USC 1232g(h))
  • Special education data. The federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) governs data about students who receive special education services. IDEA and its regulations indicate that FERPA governs the privacy and access of special education data. (20 USC 1417(c) and 34 CFR 300.610 to 300.626) Schools should treat special education data like other education data unless a statute or rule expressly provides otherwise. For example, copies of a student’s special education and disciplinary data must be transmitted to the appropriate authorities, to the extent permitted by FERPA, if it is alleged that the student committed a crime. (34 CFR 300.535).

What are “law enforcement unit” data?

“Law enforcement unit” data are those that are kept by a separate law enforcement unit, such as a school liaison officer. They are not education data and are not subject to FERPA or Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32. Even though a school’s law enforcement unit data are not education data, they may be law enforcement data under Minnesota Statutes, section 13.82, or peace officer records of children under Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.171. Education data in the possession of a school’s law enforcement unit retain their classification as education data pursuant to FERPA and Chapter 13. (34 CFR 99.8)

What education data can a school share with the juvenile justice system?

  • Data schools must release. Upon request, a school must release these data to the appropriate authorities prior to adjudication: (1) the student’s full name, home address, telephone number, date of birth; (2) a student’s school schedule, attendance record, and photographs, if any; and (3) parents’ names, home addresses and telephone numbers. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 8(a))
  • Data schools may release. The authorities may also ask for these data if the request is accompanied by an explanation of how it would serve the juvenile: (1) use of a controlled substance, (2) assaultive or threatening conduct that could result in dismissal from school, (3) possession or use of weapons or look-alike weapons, (4) theft, or (5) vandalism or other damage to property. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 8(b); 34 CFR 99.38)
  • Emergencies and crimes. A school may disclose data to the juvenile justice system if necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. The school makes this determination. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivisions 3(d) and (l); 34 CFR 99.36) A school may also report a crime on school premises or at a school event. This is allowed because the report may consist only of personal knowledge and does not include education data or the crime is an emergency under 34 CFR 99.36.

What other education data must a school share?

  • Child maltreatment. School personnel are mandated reporters of maltreatment and must report to law enforcement or social service agencies. (Minnesota Statutes, section 626.556, subdivision 3)
  • Wounds from dangerous weapons. School medical staff must notify law enforcement if they treat a student for an injury from a firearm or other dangerous weapon. (Minnesota Statutes, section 626.52, subdivisions 2 and 3)
  • Unlawful firearm possession. Each school board must adopt a policy requiring that the appropriate school official report a student possessing an unlawful firearm to the criminal or juvenile justice systems as soon as practicable. (Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.05)
  • Dangerous weapons report. Schools must report to the state Department of Education incidents involving the use or possession of a dangerous weapon in school zones. The name of the student cannot be included in the report. Without this personally identifying information, the report is not education data and is public. (Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.06)
  • Missing child flag data. A school must flag a student record at the request of law enforcement if the child is reported as missing. The school must then notify law enforcement if the missing child’s education data are requested. (Minnesota Statutes, section 123B.08, subdivision 3)
  • Directory information. A school must disclose directory information to anyone who requests it, unless a parent has opted out of including the student’s information as public directory information. Annually, schools have discretion on what data, if any, they designate as directory information. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 5; 34 CFR 99.37)

What data about students must law enforcement share with schools?

  • Alcohol and drug violations. Law enforcement must report a drug or alcohol violation to a school’s chemical abuse preassessment team if there is probable cause to believe that a K-12 student committed the violation. (Minnesota Statutes, section 121A.28)
  • Serious juvenile offenses. Law enforcement must notify the principal or superintendent if there is probable cause to believe that a juvenile committed (1) an adult crime, (2) the victim is a student or staff, and (3) notice is reasonably necessary to protect the victim. Notice to the school is also required if there is probable cause to believe a juvenile committed a serious crime (described in Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.171, subdivision 3(a)), regardless of the victim’s status. (Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.171, subdivision 5(e))
  • Juvenile court dispositions. A probation officer must provide a copy of the disposition to the school if a juvenile is adjudicated delinquent for an act (1) committed on school property or (2) one of the statutory listed adult criminal offenses. The probation officer may notify a school if a student is adjudicated delinquent and on probation for other offenses. The probation officer must notify the juvenile’s parents about the disclosure and must notify the school that it may get additional information with parental consent. The probation officer must notify the school when the student is discharged from probation. (Minnesota Statutes, section 260B.171, subdivision 3)

How can schools share education data if there are no statutory provisions for sharing?

  • Consent. A school or law enforcement may ask parents to consent to release of education data. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 3(a))
  • Court orders, search warrants, or subpoenas. A school must release education data in response to a court order. (Minnesota Statutes, section 13.32, subdivision 3(b)) In most circumstances, FERPA permits release with a subpoena if the school makes a reasonable effort to notify the parent or the eligible student in advance of compliance. (34 CFR 99.31(a)(9))