Does HIPAA prevent a school administrator, or a school doctor or nurse, from sharing concerns about a student’s mental health with the student’s parents or law enforcement authorities?

Student health information held by a school generally is subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), not HIPAA. HHS and the Department of Education have developed guidance clarifying the application of HIPAA and FERPA.

In the limited circumstances where the HIPAA Privacy Rule, and not FERPA, may apply to health information in the school setting, the Rule allows disclosures to parents of a minor patient or to law enforcement in various situations. For example, parents generally are presumed to be the personal representatives of their unemancipated minor child for HIPAA privacy purposes, such that covered entities may disclose the minor’s protected health information to a parent. See 45 CFR § 164.502 (g)(3). In addition, disclosures to prevent or lessen serious and imminent threats to the health or safety of the patient or others are permitted for notification to those who are able to lessen the threat, including law enforcement, parents or others, as relevant. See 45 CFR § 164.512(j).

Content created by Office for Civil Rights (OCR)
Content last reviewed on September 12, 2017