The January 23rd school shooting in Benton, Kentucky was reported to be the eleventh so far in 2018. Let that sink in for a moment. It would appear that our need to expect--and be prepared for--such tragic events is becoming the new normal. In light of this sad reality, schools will clearly be on alert for any red flags that could possibly indicate a situation escalating toward a dangerous or violent outcome. If something is discovered, there may be a need to act quickly to ensure the safety of students and staff. Student information generally protected from disclosure under FERPA may need to be released to various officials and authorities. For that reason, FERPA contains the health and safety exception.
Codified at 34 C.F.R. Section 99.31(a)(10), disclosure of personally-identifiable information (PII) from student educational records is authorized without parent/student consent if such disclosure is made in connection with a health or safety emergency under the conditions set forth in Section 99.36. That section provides that PII may be disclosed to appropriate parties in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. The school may take into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals and, if it determines that threat to be significant, then disclosure may be made to “any person whose knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.”
Additional information about the FERPA health and safety exception, and its applicability in various circumstances, may be found at the links below.
As always, if you have any questions or have uncertainty in this matter, please don't hesitate to contact me.