What is FERPA?
So, if you have a kid in school, you probably have seen those slips of paper go by asking for your permission to include kid name, parent names, email addresses, phone numbers, home address, etc. type of thing in a school directory. This is probably a FERPA opt-out form. Yes, you _can_ tell the school NO don't share this kind of information with anyone, and the result will be if someone asks the school if anything-at-all about you and/or your kid, then the school will say (if they are doing their job), "We have no releasable information."
The opt-out of directory information can be a biiiiig hammer.
FERPA is why teachers can no longer handed graded papers to students to return to the class. FERPA is why teachers can no longer post a list on the door with names in one column and grades in another column. If you are thinking, wait a second, FERPA is ooooold, older than me, and my teachers used to do something-that-is-against-FERPA, well, the answer to that is that we do better enforcement these days.
If you are thinking, but what about when the teachers have the kids grade each others stuff? Not an educational record yet! Once the teacher's marks are on that thing, no one else is supposed to see it, apparently. What about listing those codes on the door in one column and the grades in the other column? As long as it is a non-identifiable report code, go for it. Etc. I'm sort of wondering whether it matters if the graded item will be factored into a grade that goes into the record vs. a graded item that will not be factored into a grade in the record (pop quizzes which are
FERPA is why, when you are sitting in a parent-teacher conference, the teacher can barely formulate a sentence because they are attempting to tell you something involving your kid and some other child or children in the class, but they absolutely must not name or otherwise identify any other child than your own. The teacher actually might be a little confused here. They _can_ identify the other kid to you, if they saw whatever happen themselves personally. They cannot tell you if they got that information from an educational record. I am a little unclear on whether they can repeat what another employee of the school told them verbally, so I'm betting at least some of the teachers are hazy on this as well. And then of course there is school policy on top of all this.
FERPA is why, despite all the people who cannot have access to information without consent, student (directory) information is still available to military recruiters.
FERPA is why you can be on the hook for your kids' college tuition but not have access to their student records (altho there's some interesting edge rules here).
I'm still poking around at this, because student essays are a really interesting thing. Like personal letters, they are often out of the possession -- forever, or at least extended periods of time -- of the presumptive copyright holder (I say presumptive, because some of these suckers have really ambiguous copyrights -- especially if you bought one from someone else). If I write an extended letter, including composed for the purpose of the letter poetry to someone, and they publish it, they have violated my copyright. But fair use means they can definitely publish 10% or less of the thing, which might include an entire limerick, say. FERPA protects people from finding out what grade an identifiable student got on a paper. (Question: does FERPA in any way prevent the grade from being associated publicly with the otherwise not identifiably authored paper? And how does _that_ interact with copyright?) IP law protects the student's copyright. Fair use explores an interesting area in the middle.
And that's before we get into mandatory reporting requirements, which a particularly confessional student paper might trigger.