Inside: A look into the educational rights of the 18 year old student. 

Your child just turned 18! That sure is scary for a lot of reasons. Your child is now technically an adult and has a brand new world before them. Something to consider when your 18 year old starts this new chapter of their life is their rights as a student. The same rules don’t fly with an adult student.

You may be familiar with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)- you should receive a notification from your child’s school each year detailing this information. Well, those rights now apply to your 18 year old!

These changes might seem scary, so we’re here to walk you through what’s different. It is also helpful to explain this information to your 18 year old so that they’re familiar with their rights as an 18 year old high schooler.

What 18 Year Olds Should Know About The Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law protecting the privacy of educational records. Once a high schooler turns 18, they become an “eligible student” who is entitled to these rights. Until that point, these FERPA rights apply to the parents.

FERPA rights are also applicable to students who attend a school beyond the high school level, like a college or university.

A lot of the concern around FERPA and educational records surrounds personally identifiable information (PII). It is only natural that an 18 year old high schooler would like to protect their PII.

Schools are required to notify each adult student of their FERPA rights each calendar year. The way that the school notifies their students, however, is up to them. It may come in the form of an email, written letter, school handbook, etc. Eighteen year olds should be aware of this and make a point to find this announcement each year.

Once a high schooler turns 18, parents no longer have these same rights. Parents should also view this information to be aware of what they may no longer have control over without their child’s consent.

What 18 Year Olds Should Know The Health Insurance And Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA)

The Health Insurance and Portability Accountability Act (HIPAA) protects patient health information from being disclosed without the patient’s consent or knowledge.

HIPAA generally does not apply to high schools as they are not HIPAA-covered entities. There are some schools, however, that provide healthcare and are subject to HIPAA. A student at one of these institutions should look into their healthcare and their rights pertaining to their health records.

Often, “health” records at educational institutions fall under the “educational” record category, and as such are subject to FERPA. Again, students should check with their individual school to be sure, as each case can be different.

Educational rights for 18 years olds

18 Year Old High School Student Rights

Here is a brief look at some of the educational rights of 18 year old students.

Rights Afforded To Adults: Once a high schooler turns 18, they have all of the rights of an adult. They can sign themselves in and out of school and sign field trip forms or other forms that require a parental signature. 

Educational Records:  Adult students have the right to see their educational records as maintained by their school. However, their school does not need to provide actual copies of these records unless there is something preventing the student from simply viewing them. 

Corrections to Records:  If an 18 year old sees something in their educational records that seem incorrect or misleading, then they can request to have that information amended. If their educational institution does not comply, then students also have the right to leave a statement within the record with their review about the contested information.

Release of Records:  As a general rule, a school must receive written permission from the student before releasing information from their educational record. This includes the release of this information to the parent. Once a student turns 18, parents can no longer freely view educational or financial aid information.

Opting out of Directories: Adult high schoolers can opt out of directory information, if desired. They will have to make this request to their school, receive the proper form, complete it, and return it. The school is also required to honor this request even once the student has left the school.

Exceptions to Student Rights

There are, however, some exceptions to the rights of adult students. Take a look at some of these special circumstances and conditions.

Schools Do Not Need to Provide Copies of Educational Records:  While an adult student has the right to view their educational records, schools are not required to provide physical copies of these records as long as the student is able to view it in some way. Schools are also permitted to charge a fee for providing copies. 

Release of Records Without Consent:  There are some institutions that can receive educational records from schools without the student’s permission. Records might be released to comply with a judicial order or subpoena, or to other institutions. These institutions include:

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest
  • A school that the student is transferring to
  • Officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Financial aid officials
  • Organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the school
  • Accrediting organizations
  • Health and safety officials
  • School and local authorities

Schools can also disclose directory information such as the 18 year old’s name, address, phone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance without consent. However, in doing so, schools must inform the student and give them time to request that this information not be disclosed.

You Cannot Take Courses Anonymously:  Though a student can opt out of directory information, a school is not required to allow them to participate in courses anonymously. The student still has to identify themselves to the school itself. It is the sharing of this information that is protected in most circumstances.

Parental Rights: If the parent of the 18 year old is still claiming them as a dependent, then they may have access to that student’s educational records if requested. Parents should be notified annually of their FERPA rights.

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