Did you know that high schools keep a file on each student?
This file is called a “permanent record.” You wouldn’t believe how much information is stored on your permanent record:
- Test scores
- Attendance records
- Severe disciplinary actions (such as suspensions or expulsion)
- You name it!
These records are usually stored in CA-60 file folders. They are shared whenever a student transfers to a different school.
Once the student graduates, the file is typically archived. In most cases, the permanent record is kept indefinitely. However, there are some exceptions.
How Long Is a Permanent Record Kept After Graduation?
There are no nationwide rules about how long high schools should keep student records (source).
While some states do not specify how long a high school should maintain student records. Others do set a retention time.
- Five years: States such as Arizona, Louisiana, Maryland, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Wisconsin require such records to be maintained for at least five years after the student transfers, graduates, or withdraws from the school.
- 50 to 100 years: High school records are maintained for 50 years in Minnesota and at least 60 years in Massachusetts and Illinois. In Pennsylvania, they’re maintained for at least 100 years.
- Indefinite: In Alaska, high school records are kept for an indefinite period of time.
- Permanent: High school permanent records are truly permanent in California, Maine, North Carolina, and Oklahoma.
Some school districts keep permanent records “as long as educationally relevant” while others shred them after the student’s 23rd birthday. Other districts destroy student records two years after the graduation date.
In states that don’t keep permanent records after a student graduates, the school notifies the student and parents when the records will be destroyed.
Who Can Access My Student Records?
Whether your student records can be shared or not depends on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
According to the FERPA, your student records can be shared with:
- Parents or eligible students
- School officials with legitimate educational interest
- Other schools to which a student is transferring
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- Parties in connection with student financial aid
- Accrediting organizations
- Officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
- State and local authorities within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law
Summary: Here’s How Your Data Is Used
- Permanent records: High school permanent records contain routine information. They are mostly shredded a few years after graduation. However, in some states, they’re kept forever.
- Background checks: Recruiters can require access to high school records when performing an in-depth background check.
- Transcripts: Transcripts are kept for an indefinite amount of time! Most states require that records be kept forever. Others mandate that they be kept for only a few years.
- College admission: Colleges do access high school transcripts for admission purposes. These include grades you achieve in high school from grade nine to senior year. An admissions committee will analyze your transcript before they admit you as a student.
How Can I Get Access to My Student Records?
Parents or eligible students have the right to access the student’s education records.
As covered more deeply in our article ‘how to get a copy of your high school diploma‘, here is how you can get access to your student records:
- If you have access to your school: contact the school system’s central offices or the district office.
- If you moved away: find your high school’s address and phone number on the online Directory of Schools or the American School Directory.
- If you were in a private school: search for your private high school on the National Center for Education Statistics page for private schools. All school districts are required to have the contact information of someone who can give you access to your records.
Be warned: schools may charge a fee for copies of your student records.
Are High School Permanent Records Important?
Students who have gotten in trouble during high school might have heard that such behavior goes on a permanent record.
Although many forget about high school permanent records after graduating, these documents can become important later in life.
For instance, almost 75 percent of colleges and universities collect high school disciplinary information (source)!
Be warned: High schools commonly disclose disciplinary information about their students to colleges and universities.
However, due to the high volume of applications, most admission officers focus on the high school transcript.
Many students are concerned about unauthorized access and misuse of personal information, how and where the data is stored, and how vulnerable their personal information is to cyber-attacks.
For instance, “students worry about the type of information that schools and education agencies collect, who can access it, what it can be used for, and how it remains secure,” an article in The Atlantic explains.
However, access to permanent records is protected under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Only parents and adult students have the right to access their records.
Advice for Students With Disabilities
High school permanent records can be crucial when requesting special accommodations, applying for supplemental income, or securing support services.
Before the graduation date, ask Pupil Services for copies of all records and transcripts.