Family Rights to Privacy

Family right to privacy and information in schools

File Cabinet

Family Rights to Privacy are important to be knowledgeable about when collaborating with school professionals about sensitive topics. As we expand upon the origin, meaning, and implications of each of these areas, parents and school psychologists alike should take note. Serious implications may follow if proper procedures are not taken to consider these areas.


Privacy is a blend of three things…

  1. Case Law
  2. Statutory Law
  3. Professional Ethics

Case Law- Although “right to privacy” is not expressly mentioned in the Constitution, privacy rights have been carved out of certain Amendments. Many court cases have addressed the issue of privacy rights. Here are some examples:

  • Merriken vs. Cressman (1973): Questionnaire was given to students about their parent-child relationships and parents did not give consent first. Ruling was that parents have the right to be free from invasion of family privacy by  the school.
  • New Jersey vs. T.L.O. (1985): Ruling stated that school officials must have reasonable grounds to suspect that a search will produce evidence. The search must be justified at its inception by more than just a rumor or hunch.
  • Sterling vs. Borough or Minersville (2000): The police violated privacy rights when they threatened to tell a student’s parents he was gay. The boy committed suicide after the threat was made. 

Statutory Law- Some examples of statutory protection for privacy rights include:

  • IDEA – Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act
  • FERPA- Family Education Rights and Privacy Act
  • PPRA- Protection of Pupil Rights Act. Amended in 1994, states that students do not need to submit information from surveys telling about their political, religious, sexual, familial or financial attitudes or stances.

Professional Ethics- This coincides with the principle belief of respect for dignity and valuing autonomy, self-determination, and the right for clients to decide for themselves what information is private for them. Psychologists should not store any personal information that is disclosed to them.


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