Student Privacy and Accessing Video Surveillance

“If you have any questions about student privacy and accessing video surveillance, contact one of our attorneys at (203) 221-3100.”

Schools today are relying more than ever on surveillance systems to ensure the safety of their students and staff. However, the widespread use of video surveillance in schools brings up significant questions about student privacy and parents’ rights to access these recordings.

Navigating the complex landscape of federal privacy laws can be challenging and often leaves parents feeling frustrated and uncertain. This confusion can lead to misunderstandings and concerns about whether schools are adequately protecting students’ privacy rights while also ensuring transparency.

Understanding the nuances of student privacy laws and how they interact with video surveillance is crucial. By gaining a clear understanding of these regulations, you can better advocate for your child’s rights and ensure that schools comply with legal standards.

What Qualifies as an Education Record?

According to Section 1232g (a) (4) (A) of Title 20 of the United States Code, an “education record” encompasses a wide range of materials. These include records, files, documents, and other types of information that specifically relate to a student.

For a record to be considered an education record, it must meet two primary criteria: it must contain information directly about a student, and it must be maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by someone acting on behalf of such an agency or institution.

This means that while a surveillance video might capture footage of students, it does not automatically qualify as an education record. The key factor is whether the video is kept for the purpose of providing information directly related to a student. If it is not retained for this purpose, it does not fall under the category of an education record.

Federal Guidance on Viewing School Surveillance

The Office of the Chief Privacy Officer, which administers the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), provided essential guidance on the issue of school surveillance in 2017. This guidance clarifies how FERPA applies to video recordings in schools and the rights of parents and students concerning these recordings.

When Can Parents View a Videotape?

According to the 2017 guidance, if a videotape directly involves two students, both parents have the right to view the recording. This is because the video pertains to their respective children, and under FERPA, parents have the right to access education records related to their child. However, this access is not unlimited. The video is also considered an education record for the other student involved, and FERPA’s privacy protections apply to that student as well.

Therefore, while parents can view the recording, they must do so within the constraints of FERPA to ensure the privacy of all students involved. This provision helps balance the rights of all parties and maintains the integrity of student privacy.

Restrictions on Obtaining Copies

Even though FERPA allows parents to view recordings that involve their children, it does not permit them to obtain copies of these videos. This restriction is in place to protect the privacy of other students who might also appear in the footage. Allowing copies to be made could potentially lead to unauthorized sharing or misuse of the recordings, which could violate the privacy rights of the other students captured in the video.

This aspect of FERPA underscores the importance of maintaining strict controls over access to and distribution of student-related information. Schools must be diligent in applying these rules to safeguard all students’ privacy rights.

Contact Us for Assistance

Navigating the complexities of student privacy and video surveillance can be daunting. If you have any questions or concerns about student privacy and accessing video surveillance, do not hesitate to contact one of our education attorneys in Connecticut at (203) 221-3100. Our team is well-versed in the nuances of education law and can provide you with the guidance and support you need to protect your child’s privacy rights.

Key Takeaways

  • Definition of Education Records: Under Section 1232g(a)(4)(A) of Title 20 of the United States Code, education records include any materials containing information specifically about a student and maintained by an educational agency or institution.
  • Surveillance Videos: A surveillance video does not qualify as an education record unless it is retained for information directly related to a student.
  • Viewing Rights: Parents can view surveillance videos that directly involve their children, even if other students are also in the video.
  • Restrictions on Copies: FERPA does not allow parents to obtain copies of surveillance videos, even if the video pertains to their child, to protect the privacy of other students captured in the footage.