• By Rafay Muneer
  • Last updated: November 10, 2023
  • 4 minute read

How PII Redaction Software Helps You Comply with FERPA

Learn why FERPA compliance is essential for protecting student data and how PII redaction software can help educational institutions achieve it.

The need for a PII redaction software in educational institutions is more than ever owing to an escalation in cybercrimes.

Just last year, IBM ranked education in the top 10 sectors for most costly breaches. On average, these breaches amounted to a whopping $4.82 million.

So, it's crystal clear that protecting student data is a necessity. In fact, The Department of Education understands the importance and enforces strict protections under the FERPA Act.

To ensure compliance with the vital FERPA regulations, institutions must proactively protect sensitive data like PII (Personally Identifiable Data). Otherwise, the consequences can be dire.

In this blog, we'll explore why FERPA compliance is essential and how educational institutes can accomplish it using a PII redaction software.

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Why Do You Need PII Redaction Software for FERPA?

Educational institutes looking to comply with FERPA often have to rely heavily on PII redaction software. Why? Because there's tons of PII floating in their archives, and redacting it isn't always straightforward.

Students submit a wealth of information during their academic journey, ranging from enrollment forms to classroom assignments. No record is complete without the obligatory 'full name' and 'date of birth' fields.

Of course, amassing this amount of data also comes with the responsibility of keeping it safe. The last thing students and their families need to feel is that their trust and privacy have been compromised.

Manually redacting or obscuring this information wastes time, resources, and effort. Moreover, it can be done ineffectively and may sometimes be uncovered using recovery techniques or tools.

This is where PII redaction software comes in. It ensures that Personally Identifiable Information (PII) from documents and records is identified and masked before their release in a safe, effective, and automated manner.

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What is the importance of FERPA Compliance?

FERPA ensures that educational institutions have the student's privacy rights and best interests in mind. Because of this, FERPA isn't just a set of regulations; it's the seal of approval that parents and students need.

But it goes beyond that. Non-compliance and violation of FERPA can often result in severe penalties, including:

  • Financial Penalties: Academic organizations that fail to meet FERPA compliance requirements can have their federal funding revoked by the Department of Education.
  • Legal Action: If FERPA violations are severe, parents and students can take legal action, including cease-and-desist orders or lawsuits.
  • Sanctions: The Department of Education can place administrative sanctions on schools, making them take corrective actions to fix violations.
  • Disciplinary Action: Employees who break FERPA rules might face disciplinary action or fines, depending on the situation.

What Data Should be Redacted in FERPA?

Section 34 CFR § 99.30 of the FERPA Act defines PII as information that includes but is not limited to, the student's name, address, personal identifier, or other information that would make the student's identity easily traceable.

Among these, some common PII types can include data such as:

  • Names
  • Student ID Numbers
  • Social Security Numbers
  • Email Addresses
  • Grade Reports/Transcript of Records
  • Mailing Addresses
  • Disciplinary Records
  • Tuition Payment Receipts
  • Financial Aid Documents
  • Scholarship Applications
  • Immunization Records
  • Parent/Guardian Information

In essence, a broad range of personal information needs to be redacted. This is why educational institutes rely on PII redaction software to ensure nothing slips through the cracks.

How to ensure FERPA Compliance with a PII Redaction Software?

The sheer volume of documents and records educational institutions manage always have the potential of containing PII — due diligence mandates them to redact every instance of PII.

Doing so by hand is not feasible or practical; this is where PII redaction software comes to the rescue. With features like bulk redaction, it can instantly obscure PII from several files, regardless of size or type.

This comes in handy, especially when responding to information requests by parents. As FERPA regulations dictate, schools are often expected to respond within 45 days.

If PII redaction workflows slow down, releasing documents in a timely manner is challenging. Additionally, it can put unnecessary stress on administrative staff to ensure redaction is adequately carried out.

The best part about using PII redaction software is that it isn't restricted to just documents. PII from students can also be found scattered throughout other types of files.

Take, for example, a recorded class lecture where the camera briefly picks up a student's face, name, or ID badge. In such cases, the burden of manual redaction would require the knowledge of using video editing tools.

But with PII redaction software, you can ingest multiple media types, including audio and video files. From there, you can automatically detect your subjects and ensure you redact them based on your needs.

Get FERPA-Compliant PII Redaction with VIDIZMO Redactor

When it comes to FERPA compliance and safeguarding students' personal information, VIDIZMO Redactor is your go-to solution. Using the power of AI assistance, you can seamlessly redact documents, videos, and audio files on the fly.

VIDIZMO Redactor offers you the following capabilities for your redaction needs:

  • Bulk Document Redaction: Save time and effort by redacting multiple documents simultaneously.
  • AI-Assisted Video Redaction: Automatically track and detect faces and objects within videos and blur, pixelate, or black them out with a single click.
  • Audio Redaction: Mute or bleep specific audio segments, ensuring that personal identifiers are effectively redacted.
  • Audit Trail: Keep track of all redaction actions with the built-in audit trail for regulatory compliance and internal oversight.
  • Optical Character Recognition (OCR): Detect sensitive data in scanned and handwritten documents, including email addresses, SSNs, names, and more.
  • Enhanced AI-Powered Search: Quickly locate relevant media with specific keywords using AI-enhanced search.

Don't compromise on the security and privacy of your students' information. Choose VIDIZMO Redactor to simplify FERPA compliance and fortify your commitment to data protection.

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Compliance with FERPA might seem like a colossal task, rightly so — it's a vital commitment. With each passing school year, more student information is entrusted to educational institutions, making data protection non-negotiable.

Thankfully, by leveraging PII redaction software like VIDIZMO Redactor, staying in FERPA's good graces becomes quick, easy, and painless.

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What is FERPA Compliance?

FERPA compliance refers to adhering to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This federal law protects the privacy and security of students' personally identifiable information (PII) and educational records.

Compliance involves ensuring that educational institutions handle, share, and safeguard student data following FERPA regulations.

Who Must Comply with FERPA?

Educational institutions, including schools and colleges, are primarily responsible for FERPA compliance. This includes all educators and staff involved in handling student records.

Who is Responsible for FERPA Compliance?

Instituting FERPA compliance is done via a collaborative effort between the compliance officers, administrative staff, legal experts, and other school officials.

What are the Exceptions to PII Redaction FERPA Compliance?

Some standard exceptions for redacting PII for FERPA compliance apply if the information is shared with the following:

  • School officials with legitimate educational interests
  • Other schools where a student intends to enroll
  • Accrediting organizations
  • Authorized representatives: Comptroller General, the Attorney General, the Secretary, or State and local educational authorities
  • Parents of dependent students
  • Parties involved in financial aid matters
  • Officials handling health or safety emergencies
  • Courts with lawful orders or subpoenas
  • State and local authorities as per state statutes
  • Organizations conducting research for educational institutions
  • Individuals seeking directory information
  • Victims of certain violent crimes
  • Parents of students under 21 regarding violations of Federal, State, or local laws about the use or possession of alcohol or controlled substances

Who Should be Informed About FERPA Regulations?

Ideally, all administrative, IT, and teaching staff should be informed about FERPA regulations, its requirements, and best practices to follow. By law, enrolled students' parents must also be informed of their rights every year.

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Posted by Rafay Muneer

Rafay is a Senior Product Marketing Strategist at VIDIZMO. He is driven to explore data protection and redaction solutions across various sectors. For any inquiries or assistance, feel free to get in touch at websales@vidizmo.com.

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