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Document Destruction for School Districts

June 3, 2021

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Document Destruction for School Districts

School districts keep student records for a variety of state and federal compliance reasons. Each state and district has specific rules regarding the duration of time these records must be kept. Getting rid of both paper and electronic records through the use of proper destruction methods allows schools to reduce costly storage as well as the potential risk of privacy theft through breaches.

While there aren’t any federal laws dictating the specific duration of time for student record retention, there is FERPA (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) that acts to protect student education records for privacy. FERPA has specific rules for allowing parents/guardians to review and inspect their child’s education records, creates procedures that allow parents the review within a reasonable time after a request has been made, and to notify them when records are scheduled for destruction.

Best Practices

It is always recommended to check with the individual school districts and state to verify if there are specific retention length requirements for student records. In some states, disposing of student records for Special Education students has a different/longer retention time length. It’s also good to understand that while FERPA does offer parents/guardians the ability to review their student’s records it doesn’t require providing copies of the records. In addition to reviewing, FERPA requires that any student records scheduled for destruction should not be destroyed if there are outstanding requests for review. 

Professional waste management companies such as Healthcare Waste Management are knowledgeable on the various state rules and guidelines for the states that they service. HWM can advise on recommended retention times for student records to assist clients and help to avoid potential legal actions in cases where school districts destroyed records prematurely. HWM can also act as consultants for those school districts that may not have a record destruction plan in place so that they comply with state and FERPA guidelines.

Paper versus Electronic

The guidelines under FERPA for the destruction of electronic student records indicates that they must have a written agreement specifying the time period for destruction and that they can be destroyed when they are no longer needed for the purpose specific for which they are disclosed.

FERPA is specific for both paper and electronic student record destruction in that they must be shredded, erased, or otherwise have the information modified so that it renders the records undecipherable, unreadable, or non-reconstructable. Approved methods for electronic record destruction that destroys the data can be degaussing and for paper documents, shredding so that the pieces cannot be reassembled.

Healthcare Waste Management makes use of a complete data destruction process for all electronic data equipment so that they are completely unusable. HWM uses a “piece and tear” process for all paper documents so that each shredded item is unique and can never be reassembled. In an effort to reduce everyone’s carbon footprint, HWM has partnered with ecologically minded organizations so that both paper and left over electronics can be recycled and repurposed.

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