What Staff Get to Know Who Gets a Free/Reduced Price Lunch?
The Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education – that’s the office that regulates FERPA – has issued a ruling that it is not a violation of FERPA for a building principal to share names of students who receive free or reduced price meals to school staff for the purpose of helping those students improve their academic achievement.
There is an exception in FERPA for sharing information without consent of the parent with “other school officials” who have “legitimate educational interests, including the educational interests of the child.” Helping students improve classroom performance is just one “legitimate educational interests” that can be relied on by a school administrator to share SES information with staff. The Family Policy Compliance Office also stated that “other school officials” includes not just administrators and teachers, but also board members, clerical staff, nurse and health staff, counselors, transportation staff, food service staff, etc.
The bus driver has no legitimate educational interest in the F/R status of a child, but does need to know the special needs of the students riding in the bus driver’s care. The substitute teacher needs to know the peculiar proclivities of the students in his/her care. This is not a blank check; for instance, a first grade teacher has no legitimate educational need to know information about students in upper elementary grades, assuming the teacher will have no contact with those students.
If the educational interests of a student will benefit by sharing information about that student with staff, do so.