Education Data Protection and Document Disposal: How to Stay FERPA-Compliant

Jan 24, 2023

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that was passed to protect the privacy of student records. The rules and regulations under the law apply to schools that receive funding from the Department of Education.

Failing to comply with FERPA requirements is a serious privacy violation that can have real consequences. There are several ways schools and adjacent institutions can stay FERPA-compliant.

Complete a Data Inventory

The first step in achieving FERPA compliance is to complete a data inventory to determine what type of documents you have, how you are managing them, and how you are storing them. Knowing what types of documents you are handling can help you determine which FERPA regulations apply.

A data inventory should answer key questions such as:

  • What documents do you have?
  • Who has access to them?
  • Are there copies stored?
  • How is the data being used?
  • How are the documents organized?
  • Is there a disposal protocol?
  • How are documents disposed of?

Most schools that conduct this inventory find that there are some gaps in the process. A complete inventory does not have to take a great deal of time, but it is necessary to ensure you are following existing requirements and discover any areas for improvement.

Create a Document Management Process

Once you have completed a data inventory, you can work on creating a document management process. Any document management process should include five key elements:

  • Capture
  • Organize
  • Utilize
  • Manage
  • Destroy

High-quality document management processes should lay out clear steps for every element in the process, leaving little room for ambiguity or confusion. All employees should be trained in the management process, whether handling documents is a key part of their role or not.

Employees who handle documents on a regular basis should receive hands-on training so that the process is followed carefully.

Consider Working with a Professional

Bringing in a professional to help with completing the inventory and developing a document management process is a great option. Professionals are skilled at identifying certain types of data that you may not know to look for.

They also know the ins and outs of FERPA compliance and can help you create a program that meets all of the requirements.

Schedule Regular Shredding

Schools and adjacent institutions should dispose of student documents when they are no longer needed. The safest way to dispose of student documents is with a professional shredding service.

Professional shredding ensures that documents are destroyed the proper way and that there is no chance that sensitive student records end up in the wrong hands. Regular shredding reduces exposure and also helps those who handle documents stay more organized.

Call SEAM for Document Shredding

SEAM provides paper shredding and data destruction services to businesses in both South Dakota and North Dakota. Whether you need disposal for a small set of documents or need to handle a warehouse’s worth of records in Sioux Falls, we can ensure your business is compliant with relevant regulations.

Our consultants can help identify your needs. Call us today to get started.

SEAM provides IT recycling and data destruction services including onsite shredding and hard drive wiping to South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska.

Schedule a pickup or contact us for more information.