Research News

In latest 'Under the Law' column, Underwood discusses FERPA in the digital age

May 30, 2017
UW-Madison's Julie Underwood published her latest "Under the Law" column for Kappan magazine examining how the federal education law FERPA "has not kept pace with changing times."

Underwood is a professor of law and educational leadership and policy analysis at UW-Madison, and the former dean of the School of Education.

The goal of FERPA -- the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act -- is to protect student privacy and prevent "unauthorized disclosure of students' personally identifiable information."

However, Underwood explains that the law was enacted in 1974, before innovations like the internet, easy digital transmission of information, big data and digital recordkeeping, making much of FERPA outdated. This is problematic because while FERPA is the federal education law we rely on the most often, it is also the most out-of-touch. 

In the column, Underwood explains how the law is now antiquated in areas such as its terminology, information storage methods, high school students taking college courses, digital video recordings, and even the way the information is used. 

Read the latest "Under the Law" column here: "You say 'records,' and I say 'data'."