School says age and grade level of student who gave birth at school is protected by FERPA
A high school student gave birth in her Wilmington, N.C., school’s bathroom around dismissal time. The school system’s spokeswoman declined to release the student’s age or grade level, citing FERPA.
Source: The (Wilmington) Star-News, Baby born in Hoggard High bathroom (Oct. 2, 2012)
SPLC Attorney Advocate Adam Goldstein: This is a little bit of a gray area, actually. The district in question classifies the student’s name and date of birth as directory information, so ordinarily, FERPA wouldn’t shield that information. Here, however, the information is tied to a non-directory fact: that the student gave birth in a bathroom. To the extent that information was in a record, that would be protected by FERPA. But that information probably isn’t in a record (at least, I hope that students giving birth in the bathroom isn’t so common that the school maintains a form for it).
So the information being sought isn’t protected by FERPA because it’s directory information, and the information that would be protected by FERPA isn’t protected if it isn’t in a record. So while it looks very close to what FERPA would protect, it’s not quite there.
Of course, the really asinine part is that there are going to be lots of other places to get this information, like, say, birth records, or anybody who had gym class with the girl and noticed she was playing dodgeball with a curiously defensive stance. As far as FEPRA wrongdoing goes, this may be technically unprotected, but it’s close enough to the line that reasonable minds could differ.
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