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Records and School Reports

Records Custodian, Categories

The information presented here is based on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) and the Illinois School Student Records Act.

Public school records fall into two general categories. The first is the organizational records of the school district, which parallel those that any business or organization would ordinarily keep. Financial and personnel records, minutes of meetings, contracts, and schedules are generally open to the public under the provisions of the Freedom of Information Act.

The second category is student records. Their administration is governed by FERPA, or as it is also known, the Buckley Amendment. FERPA is intended to protect the privacy and confidentiality of a student's school records and to allow parents, guardians, and students access to those records. It affords a wide range of rights and privileges to students and parents and places great responsibilities on the schools. Individual states have statutes that govern the administration of student records and individual school districts have student record management policies. These statutes and policies generally mirror the language of FERPA but may not change the intent of the federal legislation. The following are the key provisions that outline students' protections, parents' rights, and the school's obligations.

Records Custodian

Each school must designate an official records custodian who is responsible for the maintenance, care, and security of student records, whether or not that person has actual physical control of the student records. The building principal generally serves as records custodian because he has the authority to meet the responsibilities of record maintenance and is specifically charged with assuring that school personnel are informed of the provisions of the law.


Student records fall into three basic categories: permanent, temporary, and directory information.

Permanent records shall contain the following information:

  • Basic identifying information, including both the student's and parent's names and addresses, and student birth date, birthplace, and gender
  • Academic transcript, including grades, class rank, graduation date or grade level achieved, and scores on college entrance examinations
  • Attendance record
  • Health record and accident reports
  • Record of release of permanent record information
  • Honors and awards received
  • · Information concerning participation in school-sponsored activities or athletics, or offices held in school-sponsored organizations

No other information shall be placed in the student's permanent record. FERPA has no provision for the length of time permanent records must be maintained, but states generally do. Illinois, for example, requires they be kept for sixty years.

Temporary records must contain a record of release of temporary record information and may include the following:

  • Family background information
  • Intelligence test scores, both group and individual
  • Aptitude test scores
  • Elementary and secondary achievement level test results
  • Reports of psychological evaluations, including information on intelligence, personality, and academic information obtained through test administration, observation, or interviews
  • Participation in extracurricular activities, including any offices held in school sponsored clubs or organizations
  • Honors and awards received
  • Teacher anecdotal records
  • Disciplinary information, including information regarding serious disciplinary infractions that resulted in expulsion, suspension, or the imposition of punishment or sanction
  • Special education files, including the report of the multidisciplinary staffing on which placement or nonplacement was based and all records and recordings related to special education placement hearings and appeals
  • Any verified reports or information from noneducational persons, agencies, or organizations
  • Other verified information of clear relevance to the education of the student

Although FERPA does not specify, most states require that temporary records must be maintained for at least five years after the student transfers, graduates, or withdraws from the school.

Directory information is that information that may be released to the general public in publications such as athletic programs or news articles, and in school publications, such as yearbooks. This information is limited to the following:

  • Identifying information to include name, address, gender, grade level, birth date and birthplace, and parents' names and addresses
  • Academic awards and honors
  • Information in relation to school-sponsored activities, organizations, and athletics
  • Major field of study
  • Period of attendance in the school

Parents have the right to request that any or all directory information not be released for their child. Prior to the release of directory information, school districts must notify affected parents in writing and the notification must include date of notification, parents' names, student's name, directory information to be released, and scheduled date of release.

Although not an official category under the language of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, personal anecdotal records should be mentioned here. These are the written notes that school personnel keep for their own use. A principal, for example, may make notes that record the details of a disciplinary situation to aid in future decisions concerning that student. As long as they are used only by that principal for that purpose, they remain personal anecdotal records outside of the provisions of the act. If, however, they are shared with other personnel, or are used to upgrade or annotate the student's discipline record, those notes must become part of the student's temporary record.


The Freedom of Information Act has no bearing on student records, and only persons authorized by FERPA and the state's act shall be granted access. Access to student records is granted to parents or their designated representative and to the student. Access must be granted to students or parents within fifteen days of the request to inspect or copy records. All rights of access by parents cease and pass exclusively to the student when the student turns eighteen years of age, becomes legally emancipated, marries, graduates from high school, or enters into military service.

The following persons also have access to student records: (1) employees or officials of the school district on a "need to know" basis; (2) the records custodian of another school where the student is, or will become, enrolled; (3) legitimate researchers, provided no student is identified by name; (4) persons designated by court order; (4) persons required by state or federal law; (5) in connection with an emergency, when information contained in the records is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons; and (6) government or social agencies who are investigating the student's attendance in connection with the compulsory attendance law.

Notification of rights regarding student records include a number of specific administrative regulations that require, upon the student's initial enrollment or transfer, that the school shall notify the student and their parents of their rights under the act. The notification shall be in English and in the language of the child's primary speaking ability if they are of limited English-speaking ability. The notification must include definition of student records (permanent versus temporary), inspection rights and procedures, right to control access to records, challenge procedures, maintenance procedures, and destruction schedule.

Upon graduation, transfer, or permanent withdrawal of a student, the school must notify the student and parents of the destruction schedule for both permanent and temporary records, and of their right to request copies of the records anytime prior to their scheduled destruction. Notification must include the notification date, names of the student and parents, scheduled destruction date, and the name of the records custodian.

Policies for transfer of student records between schools specifies that within fourteen days of enrolling a transfer student, the enrolling school must request directly from the student's previous school a certified copy of the student's records. Within ten days of receiving a request for records, the school must forward an unofficial record. Within ten days after all fees and fines are paid, the official records shall be forwarded to the requesting school.

Before records are sent, the student and parents must be notified of their right to inspect, challenge, and copy records. They may not challenge academic grades or references to expulsions or out-of-school suspensions. Appropriate records must be kept of any transfer.


A review of records must be made every four years or upon a student's change in attendance centers, whichever occurs first. The purpose of the review is to verify entries and to eliminate or correct all outof-date, misleading, inaccurate, unnecessary, or irrelevant information.


BRAUN, BRIAN. 2000. Illinois School Law Survey, 6th edition. Springfield, IL: Illinois School Board Association.

Illinois Administrative Code. Vol. 23, chap. 1. State Board of Education, Subchapter K: School Records, Part 375: Student Records.


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