Answer: FERPA’s rights are rights, meaning anyone who meets the definition of “parent” has the right to access educational records, for any purpose. Basically, the parents are the owners of the records. This person has no proof he is the biological or adoptive parent. However, he does appear to be “acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian,” which meets the FERPA definition of “parent.”

Is the mother involved with the student? Is she requesting access to records, or has she stated she does not want this man to see records? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, the situation may be different. A biological parent’s rights beat the rights of a caregiver. That’s why FERPA says “in the absence of a parent or guardian.” So if mother is around and involved, you probably should contact her before releasing records to this caregiver.

If mother is not around, then I think this caregiver does have the right to access educational records, for any purpose. If you are concerned about the caregiver, it couldn’t hurt to run a quick check on missingkids.org.

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