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I graduated from some private high school a long time ago. During my years there, I have experienced and witnessed a variety of dubious practices that violate students' rights. I always wanted to leave but never had the necessary resources nor support to execute my plan. Due to this I never associate myself with my school, not even in my resumés.

Recently I received an honorable mention in an invention competition. I was so proud of myself until I searched the name of the competition on Google. On page 1 a familiar name popped up. It was my school's name. When I clicked on it, I saw my name in a school blog post.

John Doe's remarkable feat in Blah Blah Invention Competition

John Doe, Class of 2000 has won an honorable mention in ...

I was so surprised that they heard the news in the first place, considering the fact that I cut off all contact with the school admin and peers after I became an adult. I didn't want my name on that page, especially given the fact that some alumni have started to come out about what they suffered in school in recent years. Can I prevent them from using the fact that I graduated their school on their website by citing the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act(FERPA) or others? Or is this fair game per first amendment grounds and am I out of luck?

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  • I don't think FERPA does anything for you here. I think a more useful question would focus on your rights of publicity.
    – bdb484
    Aug 6, 2023 at 21:26

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The privacy rule is spelled out here. Subpart D addresses disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records, saying when consent is required vs. not required (there being 16 conditions under which consent is not required). Mostly this refers to "required by law" exceptions, or "for school-internal use", but also includes "directory information". Information may be disclosed if the student (as an adult) or a parent (of a minor) has consented to disclosure.

Under the legal definition of "record", that simply means "tangible information" (not "conversations"). An education record is one that is "directly related to a student; and maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution", possibly including the information that you cite – providing that the information is maintained and disclosed by the school. In addition, though, certain information can be freely disclosed, namely "directory information" which is:

Directory information includes, but is not limited to, the student's name; address; telephone listing; electronic mail address; photograph; date and place of birth; major field of study; grade level; enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time); dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees, honors, and awards received; and the most recent educational agency or institution attended.

The regulation explains that this is information that "would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed". Privacy standards have changed since the law was passed – but it is allowed by the existing law.

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  • This is not the place to discuss opinions about a law but the idea that disclosing 'name, address, phone number, photo, birth date' is not an invasion of privacy seems very strange to me.
    – quarague
    Aug 7, 2023 at 9:12

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