The Juvenile Justice Professional's Guide to
Human Subjects Protection and the IRB Process
Home Before we begin Let's begin History of H.S. Protection Confidentiality of Secondary Youth Data Responsibility for Protecting Human Subjects Administration of the IRB
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Related Federal Youth Privacy Protection Laws
Human Subjects Research
Ethical Principles of the Belmont Report
The Institutional Review Board (IRB)
Protecting Human Subjects from Harm
The Consent Process
Privacy Protections
Related Laws
In addition to FERPA and PPRA, there are many other Federal laws that govern privacy protection rights of students served by the juvenile justice system.
  • The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act requires high schools that receive federal funding to release the name, address, and telephone number of students to military recruiters and institutions of higher education upon request. The information must be disclosed even if a parent directs the school to not release directory information under FERPA. Under NCLB, schools are required to inform students and their parents of their right to "opt out" to protect their privacy. Students or their parents may "opt out" by sending written notice to the school district that the district does not have permission to share their information with military recruiters or institutions or both. Under federal law, schools are required to honor a request to prevent disclosure of student information without prior consent. Schools must also give students and parents the option of separately opting out of the yearbook or student directory. If parents or the student takes no action with the school, the student will remain on the list of students who have not "opted out" and directory information will be available to military recruiters and others.
  • The Individuals with Disabilities Act (IDEA 1997) protects all educational records of students with special educational needs. IDEA incorporates all of the protections of FERPA and regulates access to all records of students receiving special education services under IDEA.
  • Federal Alcohol and Other Drug Confidentiality Law and Regulations (CFR 42 Part 2, 1987) protect educational records of students who receive services from programs receiving Federal assistance. Under the confidentiality rules, the records of youth who receive counseling cannot be disclosed without the patient’s consent, even when the patient is a minor, regardless if counseling is the result of parental alcoholism or drug abuse or because of the youth’s own substance abuse problems.
  • The Privacy Act of 1974 safeguards individuals against invasions of their privacy when data about them is collected, maintained, utilized, and disclosed by federal agencies. The Act further protects unwarranted invasions of privacy by restricting disclosure of universal identifiers, such as an individual’s social security number.
  • The Correction of Youthful Offenders Act (1984) protects juvenile delinquency proceedings in Federal district courts from disclosure to unauthorized persons.
  • The Computer Matching and Privacy Protection Act (1988) regulates personally identifiable computer record sharing among Federal agencies.
Based on the Juvenile Justice System Exception of FERPA, some states have mandated formalized information-sharing systems among juvenile justice organizations and other youth-serving agencies. Information sharing networks in these states are the result of legislative reforms designed to eliminate service duplication and to enhance service coordination. Legal agreements among agencies establish privacy standards and ensure confidentiality of information through strict guidelines about what and how information can be shared, how the information can be used, and what must be documented relative to information access and release. These formal relationships enable the court, social services, and healthcare agencies to track youth and respond to a variety of needs through a continuum of services by removing legal barriers to information sharing.

Although laws and policies regulate what and how youth information is collected, maintained, and disclosed, all of the laws have built-in processes that permit juvenile justice professionals to gather, store, protect, and share youth information within the context of the law. Each regulation provides alternatives for appropriate use of youth information to carry out case, management, and policy-level decisions within existing legal limits. Juvenile justice professionals who are uncertain about their ethical obligations and legal responsibilities for human subject protection should seek advice from local legal authorities and from experts at Federal, state, and local government offices.

Professional Ethical Standards
In addition to legal obligations to protect the privacy and confidentiality rights of youthful offenders, juvenile justice professionals are also guided by professional ethical standards that set forth the principles of professional responsibilities and conduct. Some relevant codes of ethical standards include, but are not limited to:
  • National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges
  • National District Attorneys Association
  • American Bar Association
  • American Sociological Association
  • American Judicature Society
  • American Political Science Association
  • American Psychological Association
  • Program Evaluation Standards
Ethical codes provide standards for professionals who work with juveniles. Most professional organizations have formally adopted codes of ethics and the majority of those are founded on the general principles of the Belmont Report -- Respect for Persons, Beneficence, and Justice.

Juvenile justice professionals must assume responsibility for the confidentiality and privacy of youth records when disclosing information to authorized persons.

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