Judge rules school security videos subject to FERPA protections

Security video footage of a public school should remain classified as an educational record under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Judge Michele Christiansen of the Utah Court of Appeals ruled May 29.

Roger Bryner, the father of a child who attended Butler Middle School, requested a recording of the security camera’s video from October 1, 2012. The footage allegedly showed an altercation that his child was involved in.

The Utah Court of Appeals upheld the trial court’s initial ruling saying that Bryner could pay $120 within 10 days of the ruling to the school district to have the video redacted to only contain footage of his son, in order to comply with FERPA. The district would then have 15 days to deliver the redacted video.

Christiansen wrote that the court viewed FERPA as being broad in scope, citing the Supreme Court’s ruling in Gonzaga Univ. v. Doe and other rulings.

“Nothing in the plain language of the statute limits the application of FERPA to only academic records,” Christiansen said.

The students in the video who were involved with the altercation had their images represented in the security video recording, and therefore the video constitutes part of their educational records. As a result, Christiansen wrote, the video is subject to FERPA protections.

Bryner argued that the video was not maintained by administrators or educators and therefore could not be considered an educational record, but the judge disagreed.

“FERPA requires only that the record be maintained by or on behalf of an educational agency, not that educators themselves maintain the records or review them,” Christiansen said.

In response to a similar situation in Ohio regarding school bus cameras, Student Press Law Center Executive Director Frank LoMonte argued the security footage was not covered by FERPA because, among other reasons, the video did not pertain to the educational performance of the students involved.

LoMonte said the Department of Education needs to further define what FERPA is intended to protect.

“Clarification is badly needed, because the Department unhelpfully muddied the issue in a February 2004 letter ruling that said a parent could not view a school surveillance tape of a fight if the tape showed any kids fighting other than her own,” he said. “Try saying with a straight face: ‘A parent does not have a right to know who beat up her child because we wouldn’t want to violate the attacker’s privacy.’”