Data Management Resources

Data Security

Transmitting Private Information Electronically

School, LEA, and NC Department of Public Instruction (DPI) staff frequently need to share information from individual student records to resolve data issues and answer program area questions. Employees of schools, LEAs, the NC DPI or other education institutions are legally and ethically obliged to safeguard the confidentiality of any private information they access while performing official duties. Private information regarding students and staff should always be transmitted securely. This guide is intended to provide best practices for transmitting individual-level data securely to protect individual privacy and comply with State and Federal Laws.

Best Practices Guide: PII and Email

Data Privacy


The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA governs the use, sharing, collection, and storage of student Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

Personally Identifiable Information (PII)

Private information is often referred to as Personally Identifiable Information in the education community. According to the U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB), “The term ‘personally identifiable information’ refers to information that can be used to distinguish or trace an individual’s identity, such as their name, Social Security Number, biometric records, etc. alone, or when combined with other personal or identifying information which is linked or linkable to a specific individual, such as date and place of birth, mother’s maiden name, etc.”

  • PII includes, but is not limited to: 
  • The student’s name
  • The name of the student’s parent or other family members
  • The address of the student or student’s family A personal identifier, such as the student’s social security number or biometric State student number combined with other identifying information
  • Other indirect identifiers, such as the student’s date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name
  • Other information that is, alone or in combination, linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty
  • Information requested by a person who the education agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates