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E.D. Backs State Restrictions on Driving Privileges of Dropouts, Truants

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Washington--If implemented properly, state measures revoking the driving privileges of dropouts or truants do not violate a federal student-privacy law, an Education Department official said last week.

Conflicts between the state laws and the federal measure will depend on the type of student information school officials must divulge and the timing of such reports, said LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the department's family-policy and regulations office.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, known as the Buckley Amendment, bars education agencies from releasing most student information without parental consent.

Because so-called "no pass, no drive" laws require school officials to notify motor-vehicle bureaus when a student is ineligible for a license, officials in Indiana and Maryland recently asked the department whether such an arrangement would violate the federal law.

Without issuing a blanket policy on the issue, the department has8given the two states a green light to implement the restrictions.

The privacy law does not protect most students who have dropped out of school, Mr. Rooker said, since it applies only to records generated while the person in question is a student.

However, he added, this might not be true in states that define "dropouts" to include students who are technically still enrolled.

But any states that want to cover truants or students who have been suspended must be careful, because that information is covered by ferpa.

Schools can report license ineligibility to the state--even though the ineligibility is caused by a fact protected under ferpa--as long as the determination of ineligibility is not made a part of school records and the underlying fact is not reported, Mr. Rooker said.

He told Indiana officials that they would have to change the form they planned to use, because it required school officials to specify why a student is ineligible for a license.

There is, however, one other potential problem. The Buckley Amendment allows "directory" information, such as a student's address and age, to be released without consent, Mr. Rooker said. But school must publicize the existence of such policies, and parents can forbid the release of any information other than their child's name.

If a school reports such a student's ineligibility without additional identifying information, it might do the motor-vehicle bureau little good--especially if the student's name was a common one.--jm

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