Answer: FERPA states that parents claiming a student as a dependent on their income may access education records even after the student turns 18. However, that law does not give parents the right to be listed as a contact and does not give them the right to be informed that their 18 year old child has asked them to be removed as a contact. It does not even give them the right to access the student’s records. FERPA only states that a school may share education records with a parent of an 18-year old student if the parent claims the student as a dependent.
From the US Department of Education:
“FERPA also permits a school to disclose personally identifiable information from education records of an “eligible student” (a student age 18 or older or enrolled in a postsecondary institution at any age) to his or her parents if the student is a “dependent student” as that term is defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code. Generally, if either parent has claimed the student as a dependent on the parent’s most recent income tax statement, the school may non-consensually disclose the student’s education records to both parents.”
The sharing is permitted, but not required, under FERPA.
However, 18-year old students do have the right to determine who sees their records. They have the right to control access. And under McKinney-Vento, unaccompanied youth have the right to have any barriers to their enrollment or retention in school removed. A youth may have very good reasons not to want parents to have access to education records. To be clear, the law does not permit schools to question those reasons— the reasons are not relevant and do not change the student’s rights. However, the reasons might help illuminate why having parents access information could be a barrier to enrollment and retention. For example, parents have posted student grades on Facebook to humiliate them.
In sum, a student’s rights under FERPA and McKinney-Vento are legal requirements, which supersede acts toward parents that may be permissible.