Confidentiality and Professional Ethics

1 Confidentiality

All records and information related to student sand their families are considered confidential. Children and youth have legal and human rights that must be respected.
As a requirement under IDEA, knowledge of confidentiality policies and procedures is required for all persons collecting or using personally identifiable information, in both special and general education.
There are two Confidentiality laws:

1. FERPA - Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
FERPA was passed in 1974, amended in 1996. Under FERPA, parents and students over 18 are granted very specific and extensive rights regarding confidential information contained in education records. Parents are given the right to inspect, control to a degree, and challenge information maintained on their child.
FERPA applies to all schools that receive money from the U.S. Department of Education.

2. IDEA - Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
IDEA was passed in 1975, reauthorized in 1997 and 2004 and is awaiting reauthorization. IDEA addresses services to students with disabilities in public schools. One section of this law deals with confidentiality of student records and incorporates the provisions of FERPA. Together, the two laws interface to protect the rights of all parents and students in public education institutions.
IDEA applies to all schools that receive money to serve students with disabilities.

Why is it important I know this?

If violations are found, federal funds may be withheld from the school. Parents have the right to proceed in a private civil action against the school district to seek monetary compensation.


Confidentiality - Protecting all personally identifiable data, information and records used, or kept by the school district about a student and includes discussions about a student and the student’s record.

Disclosure - Permitting access to, the release, transfer, and other communication of educational records of a child or youth. This includes disclosure made:
*in writing
*by any other means, including electronic transfer of information

Educational Records - Records, files, documents and other materials which contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a person acting for such agency or institution.

Personally Identifiable Information - Name of student, student’s parents or other family member, the address of the student, any personal identifier (SS #), a list of personal characteristics that would make it possible to identify the student (such as race, hair color, scars or physical attributes).

Data or information that include any of the following:
*personal and family data
*evaluation and test data
*medical, psychological, and progress reports
*written accounts of conferences
*any other information used in working with the child

Confidentiality may be violated:
* when staff discusses a child in inappropriate places or situations such as the hallway, the school office reception area, the grocery store.

* when staff repeats gossip or rumors about a child or his family

We think about confidential records and are careful to keep records locked up and not released to outsiders, but we sometimes forget about what we discuss verbally in public places as maybe being confidential.

When talking to a colleague about a student or his family, apply these four tests to see if the discussion may be violating the student’s confidentiality rights.
1. What is discussed
2. Where the discussion takes place
3. Who is listening
4. Why the discussion took place

Confidentiality is an important ethical consideration for everyone. As a representative of the school and WIU, you are governed by the laws protecting students and families.Protect yourself and WIU by understanding the laws and practicing professional integrity when it comes to discussing students.

For more information, review the PowerPoint presentation "Confidentiality".