Confidentiality

Confidentiality is the primary purpose of the USA laws, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA). It is also noted in the Individuals with Disabilities Individual Education Act (IDIEA). These laws seek to ensure student and parental rights to privacy in the educational records. The remit for confidentiality covers special educators and their interactions with general educators, paraprofessionals, related service personnel, parents, and students. Knowing and abiding by the laws regarding confidentiality provides protection for student educational records and for education personnel.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a US federal law that requires school personnel to keep student records confidential. FERPA covers all records that contain personally identifiable information relating to students. It gives parents and students the right to view their education record, but restricts the kind of access of others. FERPA allows schools to release directory information on the student, such as their age, height, telephone number, major, and awards received. However, it also requires teachers and paraeducators to get permission before they film, photograph, or list a name of any students.

Protection of Pupil Rights Amendments

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232h; 34 CFR Part 98) applies to programs that receive funding from the U.S. Department of Education. PPRA protects the rights of parents and students by seeking to ensure:

  1. that schools make available for inspection by parents any materials used in a survey, analysis, or evaluation in which their children participate; and
  2. that schools obtain written parental consent before minor students participate in any survey, analysis, or evaluation that reveals information concerning:
    1. Political affiliations
    2. Mental/psychological issues that could embarrass the student or family
    3. Sexual behavior and attitudes
    4. Illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating and demeaning behavior
    5. Critical appraisals of other individuals that students have close family relationships with
    6. Income

IDEA and Confidentiality

Part B of IDEA contains regulations for confidentiality that specifically apply to special educators and students with disabilities. Under these regulations, educators must inform parents when their child’s information is no longer needed, for example if documentation in an IEP or educational record is no longer relevant, the parents must be informed so they can decide whether that information should be removed or not. Special educators are also responsible to notify parents of their child’s rights. These actions are called “procedural safeguards” and insure parents will receive reasonable interpretations and explanations of information contained in the records of their children.

What Confidentiality means for Paraprofessionals and TAs

Paraprofessionals play an important role in supporting student success and gain information about students in a variety of ways. For example, information about a student might be seen in a student’s Individual Education Program (IEP) file, if school policy permits paraprofessionals to review a student’s file. It is important for the paraprofessional to know the student’s goals, but other information such as disability profile information should be concealed. It should also be made clear that other records contained in the filing cabinets are not to be accessed. Each time a file is opened, the “record of access” form must be completed. This requires a signature, job title, purpose for looking at the IEP, and the date. Paraprofessionals can also acquire information about a student from other formal sources such as formal test results or reports, but also informally through direct contact with students or adults who know the student personally or professionally. It is important to understand the information that can be legally shared. Paraprofessionals may discuss information about a student or student’s family with fellow educational team members as long as the conversation is directly related to the student’s education, it takes place in a private area, and your supervisor is aware. Such information must never be disclosed to anyone else in spoken or written form. Paraprofessionals must never call parents or the media to resolve a problem. Doing so is a violation of confidentiality. If confidentiality laws and regulations are violated, paraprofessionals may be terminated, and could be named in a lawsuit if the family decides to sue the school district on the basis of the violation.

References and Websites on this subject

You can learn more about FERPA by going to the Department of Education website.

Sample Confidentiality Agreement

Each school is responsible for maintaining the confidentiality of information contained in student files as required by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and the Federal Education Right to Privacy Act (FERPA). As a paraeducator—and as an employee of the school—you are involved in supporting teachers and students, you may be allowed access to certain student information. Your use of student information will be contingent upon your agreement to the following conditions to ensure confidentiality.

  1. You may only examine files of students if the classroom teacher allows it.
  2. You may NOT make photocopies of documents contained in student files. You may NOT remove the student files from the school.
  3. While working with student files, you may NOT allow anyone other than school personnel to examine the files.
  4. If information from student files is written in any reports for your high school assignments:
    • You will need permission from the cooperating teacher
    • You shall not use the actual name of the student
    • You cannot use any other information that would specifically identify a student
  5. You are responsible to keep any information about students from being distributed.
  6. Discussion of the student by name or by any other identifying information outside of the school setting is a violation of the student’s and parent’s right to confidentiality and could be subject to court action. Confidentiality is your legal responsibility. By signing this document you agree to comply with the conditions stated herein.

Paraeducator Signature

Date

Team Teacher Signature

© International Site for Teaching Assistants and Paraeducators (IS-TAP)