Maintaining the Physical Security of Student Health Information

Generally school health records, including those created by the school nurse, are excluded from HIPAA as they fall under the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA). Under FERPA, the School District is required to establish a consistent means for safeguarding and protecting confidentiality while providing a mechanism that enables health and education professionals to share information that promote student health and academic success.

FERPA protects the privacy of students and their parents by restricting access or disclosure of school records to those “school officials with legitimate educational interest” or “need to know” as defined by school policy. A school official is a person employed by the District as an administrator, supervisor, instructor, or support staff member (including health and medical staff and law enforcement personnel); a person serving on the School Board; a person or company with whom the District has contracted to perform a special function (such as an attorney, auditor, medical consultant or therapist); a clerical or paraprofessional staff member assisting another school official in performing his or her professional duties. A legitimate educational interest exists when a school official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

FERPA requires that student health information be stored in locked file cabinets or on secured computer files with restricted access. A physical location must be designated by the principal in each school to store health records. It should be a secured area with a reliable locking system.

Records protected under HIPAA are referred to as Protected Health Information (PHI) and need to be stored in separate files from educational records. They need to be in a locked cabinet and can only be accessed by those individuals providing medical care to the student. The school needs to obtain written permission to share PHI with other individuals in the school e.g., teachers, and office staff.