SAMPLE letter to gain access to your child’s data in the state student database

Since Cheri Kiesecker and I wrote an article in the Washington Post Answer Sheet about all the data that the state is collecting on children, parents in CO, NJ, RI, and many other states have asked us for a sample letter they can use to demand to see the data that states hold for their children in their longitudinal student databases. So we have drafted one below.

In most states, this request will be made via a Freedom of Information request to your State Education Department FOIA officer, and/or the Department’s privacy officer, if there is one. Parents should also copy the State Education Chief Information Officer and/or the State Commissioner, if their contact information is available.

FYI, the state cannot force you to come to their office to see your child’s data if that would be a hardship – as it would for most parents. And while they can charge a minimal fee to make copies, they cannot charge you for the search and retrieval of these records. If they try to charge you more than a minimal fee, you can appeal that decision. If the state is being obstructive in any way, please contact us at info@studentprivacymatters; we can strategize and/or help you write a FERPA complaint. And please keep us in the loop in any case!

For more information, see the US Ed Dept. letter to the state of Nevada, referred to below.

Thanks, Leonie Haimson, co-chair, Parent Coalition for Student Privacy

To whom it may concern:

I am the parent and legal guardian of (full name of child), currently (x) years of age.

My child attended x school in grades K-x (during what years); x school in grades x-y, (during what years) and x high school (during what years) in [what] school district.

Please provide me with whatever personally identifiable information (PII) that the State Education Department has collected on my child and which of this information is included in the state’s student longitudinal database, including any and all information in the database that has been contributed by other state agencies.

To access this information, and challenge it if it is incorrect is every parent’s right under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), and the state cannot charge me a fee for accessing it.

This was confirmed by Dale King, Director of the U.S. Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office, in a letter he wrote to the Nevada Education Department on July 28, 2014:

….educational agencies and institutions, as well as SEAs [State educational agencies] may not charge a fee for search and retrieval of education records. See § 99.ll(b)

According to the US Department of Education, you are obligated to provide me with my child’s data within 45 days of this request.

I also demand a list of any and all third parties, and/or governmental agencies, that have been provided with any of my child’s PII, which elements of PII they have received, and under what privacy and security agreements these disclosures were made.

Finally, I would like to know what governmental, citizen or advisory board exists to oversee the collection, use, distribution and eventual destruction of my child’s PII data, and their members.

Thank you for your cooperation in this matter and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

(Your name)
(Email address)
(Phone number)