September 9, 2002

Fixing FERPA: Protect Homeschoolers' Privacy

Congressman Mark Kennedy (R-MN) late last week introduced H.R 5331. This bill would make a needed change to the federal Family Educational Records Privacy Act (FERPA). Home School Legal Defense Association assisted Congressman Kennedy in the drafting of this legislation. Under current FERPA law, personally identifiable and educational records of public school children are protected from disclosure to the public. However, the language of FERPA does not extend the same privacy protections to the records of homeschooled children. This can be a problem because in many states, the public schools have this information as a matter of state law. Such information might include notices of intent and academic assessments. Accordingly, these records have at times been made available to the public by the public schools.

Specific privacy problems have arisen in Minnesota, Missouri, Florida, and a few other states regarding the records of homeschoolers. Because law does not protect the records, they can often be obtained through freedom of information laws even if the local school would not otherwise make them available. H.R. 5331 would afford homeschool records the same protections as public school records. This bill is the first step in assuring that homeschool records held by the state remain private. In order for this bill to become law, it must pass before the current congressional session expires at the end of the year. HSLDA will keep you informed if or when action is needed on your part.