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The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as FERPA or the Buckley Amendment was produced to protect the confidentiality of students' educational records. FERPA guarantees students that their educational records will remain private and confidential unless they give written consent of their release.
For parents, this means that you will not be able to gain access to your child's grades, records or whereabouts without his or her written permission. Even students whose parents are paying for their education are covered under FERPA.
So, before this becomes an issue, talk it over with your child. Only under very specific circumstances can information be given out without the consent of the student. In these cases there are guidelines and proper procedure that must be followed.
In emergency situations, such as hospitalization, parents can be notified. The act applies to all public and private institutions of higher education which receive funds made available under programs administered by the Secretary of Education, including federal grant monies, Pell grants, Guaranteed Student Loan Programs, and other such funds.
For more information regarding FERPA go online.