NSLA and FERPA
Published March 2014
Student information may fall under the protection of more than one law or statute administered by more than one federal agency. This can create confusion. One area frequently questioned is sharing information about students qualified for free or reduced-price meals. The Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) has stricter provisions than Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA). In this instance, NSLA trumps FERPA and is the guiding regulation when looking at confidentiality issues. The NSLA restricts who may have access to this information without parental consent to persons directly connected with the administration or enforcement of certain programs. A chart is available on page 86 in the Eligibility Manual for School Meals: Determining and Verifying Eligibility (2017).
Programs and the types of information allowed to be released are outlined in this chart. Some frequently questioned scenarios:
- To enroll a student in a backpack program sending food home over weekends and holidays, or to sign up a family for holiday meal donation: Information cannot be shared without parental consent. This is a local program.
- A staff person responsible for collecting school fees must have parental consent to receive the information. The usual method is via the fee waiver at enrollment.
- A principal, guidance counselor, or teacher at a school that operates several programs authorized under NSLA to receive free and reduced-price eligibility information. It depends on the staff person’s role with the authorized program, not the job title. To receive the information without parental consent, there must be a legitimate “need to know” to provide a service or carry out an authorized activity of the program. It is recommended that a written agreement be signed between the determining official and the receiving program administrator. Appendix C of the Eligibility Manual provides a template for such an agreement. For further questions about FERPA, contact Thomas Mayes at 515-281-8661 or email@example.com. For further questions on NSLA or FNS, contact Kala Shipley at 515-281-4757 or firstname.lastname@example.org.