The federal law designed to protect the privacy of students’ educational records has been under scrutiny from a variety of angles in recent years, most recently from those concerned about whether the law gives college officials sufficient latitude to report their fears about mentally ill students, reports Inside Higher Ed. Responding to the issues raised in the wake of last year’s shootings at Virginia Tech, by laws such as the Patriot Act, and by several recent court decisions, the federal Education Department (ED) on March 24 proposed new regulations to govern the educational privacy law known as FERPA, or the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which restricts disclosures from a student’s records by educational institutions. ED’s proposal suggests several important updates and clarifications to the law since the regulations were last significantly updated, in 2000. Perhaps foremost among them, as the anniversary of the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech approaches, is an attempt to give educational administrators more latitude in sharing information about a student–without getting that student’s prior approval–when they believe the health and safety of that student or others might be in jeopardy…

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