The Department of Education has provided new guidelines to parents and educators regarding when information about troubled students can be disclosed under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.

FERPA, a federal law governing student records, is often criticized for being too complicated.

Stimulated by the Virgina Tech shooting spree this spring, the DOE produced a series of pamphlets for parents, elementary and secondary-school officials, and college administrators. The purpose of the pamphlets is to provide some “rules of the road,” said Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings at an Oct. 31 news conference during a visit to a high school in a Washington suburb.

Specifically, the guides state that the law, which is known as Ferpa, permits educators to share confidential information with law enforcement officers, medical personnel and others without student consent when necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other individuals. In addition, institutions can disclose education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter, according to the department’s interpretation of the privacy law.

For a full article on this topic, go to the Chronicle of Higher Education at http://chronicle.com/daily/2007/10/550n.htm.