Opting Out To Protect Your Kids

Tomorrow is the first day of school for Younger One (now in grade 10). Along with the usual school preparations--accruing supplies, getting a physical, etc.--this year, I added a new item to the pre-school to do list; opt my son out of the FERPA directory.

The ironically named Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, FERPA, is an outdated piece of federal legislation that provides marketers, military recruiters--or anyone else who asks for it--information on students. 

This information can include name, date of birth, address, email address, academic history, height, weight--even photographs. And it can all be acquired without any kind of parental consent. 

This affects every kid, K-12, in every public school in the country (private schools have varying levels of FERPA compliance).

The only way parents can protect their kids from having this information released is to opt out. Most school districts only allow a limited window of time for this to happen, usually at the beginning of the school year. 

I do not believe marketers are inherently evil. I am, after all, one myself. However, there are some "ethically challenged" members of our profession, and the idea of them having a direct line to Younger One--who, at age 15, is not yet the paragon of reason--is disturbing to me. But it could be worse.

Imagine a bureaucratically sophisticated predator getting a hold of that kind of information. As the law is now, it's entirely possible. 

So what do you do? Assuming you don't want this information about your child floating around, call your child's school, and ask what is its procedure for opting out of the FPRMA directory. 

Every school has its own policy (ours is a written request to the principal within 30 days), so ask your school.

For more information, visit the World Privacy Forum website, an excellent resource on the topic.

Oh, and one more thing; once marketers (or anyone else) has FERMA directory information, it's theirs forever. However, if you want to opt out your kid, you have to do so every year.