Every one of the nearly 50 million students enrolled in the U.S. public school system has a permanent record. These records contain private information about academic performance, residency, physical and psychological health, and disciplinary history. Federal information privacy law governs these records and protects student privacy by ensuring that educational records are not disclosed to unauthorized third parties outside the school.
This Article challenges the legal construction of information privacy in public education. It argues that the law’s narrow focus on nondisclosure of information outside schools neglects information privacy violations that emerge within schools themselves. It further shows how the outcome of these privacy violations is often increased precarity for students along the lines of gender, race, class, and disability.
By examining the intersection of information privacy law with multiple marginalized identities, this Article complicates an assumption embedded in the law that governs student records: That the schools that create, collect, and document student information should also be trusted to protect student privacy. This Article calls for an expanded understanding of information privacy to inform legal thought and action—one that accounts for the contested nature, purpose, and future of both official records and of public education.
* Assistant Professor of Law, UCLA School of Law. This Article has benefitted tremendously from the valuable insights of many people. I am especially thankful to the following individuals for helpful comments, conversations, and for reading earlier drafts: Devon Carbado, Julie Cohen, Doron Dorfman, Jessica M. Eaglin, Ingrid Eagly, Blake Emerson, Jay Gillen, Jonathan Glater, Kyle Halle-Erby, Cheryl Harris, Jasmine Harris, Jerry Kang, Dave Marcus, Bill McGeveran, Dorothy Roberts, Aaron Saiger, Andrew Selbst, Seana Shiffrin, Scott Skinner-Thompson, Rebecca Stone, Eugene Volokh, Lindsey Wiley, Noah Zatz, and Elana Zeide. Thanks are also due to the participants of the Culp Colloquium at the University of Chicago, the UCLA School of Law Critical Race Studies Faculty Workshop, the Privacy Law Scholars Conference, the UCLA Junior Faculty Workshop, the American Constitution Society Junior Scholar Workshop, and the Advanced Critical Race Studies Workshop, who all provided invaluable thoughts on earlier drafts. For excellent research support I thank the UCLA Law Library team, Elizabeth Kim, Isaiah Zeavin-Moss, and Linhchi Nguyen. For stellar editorial support I thank Katurah Hutcheson, Tess Bissell, Hannah Hunt, and all the editors at the Stanford Law Review. This paper received the Reidenberg-Kerr Award for Outstanding Scholarship by a Junior Scholar at the 2022 Privacy Law Scholars Conference.