Disclose in accordance with FOIL, or keep confidential under FERPA?
January 27, 2023
Over the past few years, many school districts have experienced a significant increase in the number of requests for records and information maintained by the district. Most of these requests were pursuant to the state Freedom of Information Law (FOIL), but that is not the only law that districts must heed. The federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) governs access to student education records by parents and others and limits what a school district may disclose. This article will explore some of the issues related to information requests as well as some circumstances that highlight the overlap between FOIL and FERPA.
FOIL, which is set forth in the Public Officers Law, provides the public with access to records maintained by government agencies in New York including public school districts. A “record” is broadly defined under the Public Officers Law as any information kept, held, filed, produced or reproduced in any physical form such as reports, statements, examinations, memoranda, opinions, folders, files, books, manuals, pamphlets, forms, papers, designs, drawings, maps, photos, letters, microfilms, computer tapes or discs, rules, regulations or codes.