What is a School Confidentiality Policy?

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  • Written By: Dorothy Bland
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 08 February 2020
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A school confidentiality policy is a written document that outlines a school’s plan to protect student information. Furthermore, these documents attempt to define boundaries that identify what type of information can be shared and what types of individuals are authorized to view it. Schools put these documents in place to help ensure that teachers, administrative staff, and all other faculty understand their responsibilities. Having this policy in place may also help schools become better prepared and better capable of meeting legal and professional standards that may apply.

Part of keeping student data confidential is defining who sees these records and under what circumstances. As part of their daily jobs, administrative staff will likely need to create and maintain personal records for each student. These individuals will typically have access to everything from social security numbers to date of births and grades. To protect this data, a school confidentiality policy might define how the school keeps this information safe and secure. For instance, filed records are likely to be kept in a locked area inaccessible to anyone but staff, while data stored on a computer are liable to be password protected and encrypted.


Often, schools will specify different levels of confidentiality. For example, a school nurse will normally have access to immunization records, medication logs, and detailed medical records on students. Teachers, on the other hand, may only have access to medical-related information if a student they teach has medical needs that need to be monitored or addressed during school hours. Alternatively, a parent will normally have full access to see any school records held for his or her own child. Parents do not, however, have any rights to see other students' information.

Another issue regularly tackled in a school confidentiality policy is establishing trust. To create an environment where students feel comfortable addressing a problem with a member of staff, policies usually brief educators on how to handle personal information that the student chooses to disclose. For instance, if a student requests contraception or sexual health advice from a nurse, the student may have the right to keep this information private from parents in some jurisdictions.

Student confidentiality policies are not meant to provide complete confidentiality, however. Instead, they provide a clear set of guidelines that lets faculty know how to protect student information and in what situations this information needs to be shared with others. Generally, a school confidentiality policy will not be broken unless not doing so could put a child’s safety or welfare in danger. If a student displayed signs of physical abuse or neglect, for example, teachers are commonly required to report this information to the proper school authorities. In some cases, they would also be required to inform the appropriate local authorities such as child protective services.

School confidentiality polices create a shared consistent vision that applies to everyone. This consistency helps parents, teachers, and caregivers understand what to expect in various situations and provides reassurances that student information is being handled appropriately. The term school confidentiality policy is more likely to be encountered in the United Kingdom educational system; most jurisdictions, however, have laws and policies in place that protect student confidentiality. Depending on the jurisdiction, some schools may not have a separate confidentiality policy but might choose to incorporate such guidelines into existing policies instead. Generally, these policies tend to apply at all levels of education, including preschool and university instruction.


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Post 8

if there is an issue with two children in school, can a staff member write a letter to one parent telling them what has happened, including the name of the child of the other parent, without breaching confidentiality?

Post 7

My 12 year old daughter was recently diagnosed with epilepsy. We went through the proper channels, informing the school's administration and district nurse. In turn, we had a meeting with the district nurse, my daughter's teachers and guidance counselor. We established an emergency plan and a 504. Everyone was on the same page that Madison did not wish her peers to know about the condition, as she was terrified of having a seizure in front of her friends.

Today, she had a substitute teacher in her fifth period and after this woman took roll, she looked at my daughter and said "Madison, please don't have a seizure." This caused her classmates to turn and stare at her and several started

asking questions. I am livid right now. I called the school, but all the administration is in a meeting and can't take my call. What gives this woman the right to embarrass my child and divulge such sensitive, confidential information in front of an entire class of sixth and seventh graders?
Post 6

I work for the same school district my son attends, but not at the same school. Recently I had an argument with the staff at my son's school, and they called my director/boss and told her about it and about the issue. Is that breaking confidentiality? Can they call your boss and tell on you, even if it was before work hours and I came in as a parent not as staff? I felt like they were jeopardizing my job.

Post 5

I would like to know if my high school has breached student confidentiality by telling my co-op placement that I have been charged because when the school told the placement, I got fired and was told not to return. I would like to know what actions I should take if they have breached the confidentiality policy.

Post 3

Do you have to formally sign a document for the school's confidentiality policy to be in effect, or do you automatically accept it when you enroll a child in the school?

I don't recall ever seeing a physical copy of a confidentiality policy and was just wondering if perhaps it didn't exist at our school, or if government regulation automatically put one in place.

Post 2

If you are divorced from your spouse, and they have primary control over a child's school activities, can you still look at their records if you suspect there is a problem?

I am curious about the legality of shared-custody rights and access to information if the school is only used to dealing with one of the parents.

Also, in the case of medical records at the school, are parents automatically allowed to look at these files, or does the student get a certain amount of confidentiality?

Post 1

For students who wish to access their own records do they have to be an adult before they can read what is written about them?

I know the school's confidentiality policy gives parents unlimited access to a child's files, but would a concerned student be able to investigate what is in their file without permission from an adult?

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