Proposal to impose state-level penalties for FERPA violations cut from final version of Arizona legislation

Arizona’s governor has signed into law a bill that sets out steps to take for those who believe a school has “knowingly violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.”

The original version of the bill, introduced in the state Senate in February, would have allowed the state’s Department of Education to withhold 10 percent of the school’s monthly state aid if the problem was not fixed within 60 days. It said full funding would resume when the problem was resolved.

FERPA prohibits the disclosure of student educational records. Violations are punishable by the loss of all federal funding, although no school has even been penalized. The state-level penalties Arizona proposed would have been the first of its kind, but were dropped from the final version of the bill. When the bill was first introduced, it was criticized by open government advocates who expressed concern that it would lead to more records being withheld from the public.

The state funding penalty was removed from the legislation in the House.

As approved, the law lays out a chain of command that directs individuals with a complaint about a school’s compliance with FERPA to contact either the school district superintendent or principal of a charter school. If that official does not handle the complaint “satisfactorily” in 60 days, the next complaint can be made to the state’s superintendent of public instruction. If that official finds that the district or charter school did in fact knowingly violate FERPA, the school will have 60 days to remedy the situation. The superintendent of public instruction can report the situation to the Family Policy Compliance Office of the Department of Education if schools don’t take action in that time frame.