FERPA update on exchange of information in threat/emergency situations


From: PENT Director
Sent: Monday, January 14, 2008
Subject: FERPA update on exchange of information in threat/emergency situations

Greetings PENT Cadre Members, SELPA Directors, and Friends of PENT!

I hope you all had a peaceful end to 2007! Happy New Year!

I have recently been informed by Dr. Dewey Cornell, Virginia Youth Violence Project, that there is important new information just released from the Department of Education in Washington DC. Virginia Tech is receiving national scrutiny and there is at long last clarifying language we need to pass on to all of our schools. Upon review, I believe we all need this new memo, now. Please liberally pass on this message. You can send for brochures on this topic at the website listed below.

Also, please be aware that since the publicity surrounding Virginia Tech, coupled with many sites devoted to Columbine on YouTube, Myspace, etc., students with fragile coping systems are increasingly talking about “You’re # 12 on my list” or “I could go Columbine.” With increasing frequency I am receiving calls on this. This does not mean we are seeing an increase in violence. But what it does mean is that we need to have a competent threat assessment response team at each site that recognizes the plea for help this entails. Please inform students that these threats have in many cases been ruled federal felony offenses because the internet is interstate commerce even when both parties are in the same state. Kids don’t know this. (See: www.pent.ca.gov/threat for information you need on threat assessment, as well as Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence, at www.sopriswest.com). Fact: Students with IEPs make a disproportionate number of threats, but students with no eligibility make a larger number of threats.

Core Message:

The U.S. Department of Education has recently released a statement clarifying some exceptions to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). One section of the statement directly supports the threat assessment guidelines that some of you know I have been training on. FERPA does not prohibit a school official from disclosing information about a student if the information is obtained through the school officials' personal knowledge or observation, and not from the student’s education records. For example, if a teacher overhears a student making threatening remarks to other students, FERPA does not protect that information, and the teacher may disclose what he or she overheard to appropriate authorities.

There is also clarifying language that authorizes schools to create records maintained by law enforcement units that are not considered education records under FERPA. Accordingly, schools may disclose information from law enforcement unit records to anyone, including outside law enforcement authorities, without parental consent.

Please download and keep this information handy:



Diana Browning Wright
PENT Director



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