Limited Disclosure Policy
United States Department of Agriculture
Food and Nutrition Service
Subject: Limited Disclosure of Children's Free and Reduced Price Meal or Free Milk Eligibility Information
|The Healthy Meals for Healthy Americans Act of 1994, P.L. 103-448 amended the National School Lunch Act to allow limited disclosure of information about free and reduced price meal eligibility without consent. The statute also specifies a fine or imprisonment for the unauthorized disclosures of this information.
This law does NOT require the school district to disclose eligibility information. The school district may continue to provide aggregate information that does not identify individuals without consent.
It is recommended that each Local Education Agency (LEA) establish and disseminate a written eligibility disclosure policy with advice of the LEA’s legal counsel due to the sensitive nature of privacy and confidentiality issues. At a minimum, a school that decides to disclose information that identifies individuals must adhere to the following USDA Guidelines:
USDA Guidelines for Disclosure of Eligibility Information
1. Names and eligibility status may be disclosed without consent to persons directly connected with the administration or enforcement of the following programs:
2. All eligibility information obtained on the application or through direct certification or verification may be disclosed without consent to:
NOTIFICATION OF HOUSEHOLDS
Even though it is not required, USDA recommends that the household be notified of the potential disclosure or use of this eligibility information outside of the original purpose. The notification should state that the participants’ names, eligibility status and other information provided on the application, or obtained through direct certification, or verification may be disclosed to certain other Federal, State, or local agencies as authorized by the NSLA.
WAIVERS OF CONFIDENTIALITY
1. The disclosure of participants’ names and any eligibility information that identifies them individually to programs or individuals not specifically authorized by the NSLA requires written consent prior to disclosure of the information. Examples of programs that need prior written consent from the parents or guardian are:
2. The consent statement (waiver of confidentiality) must :
DISCLOSURE OF SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS
When disclosing or using the social security number provided by the household on the application for any purpose other than the Child Nutrition Programs, the school district must modify the notice required by the Privacy Act of 1974 concerning the potential uses of the social security number. The notice MUST inform households of the additional intended uses of the number. The Privacy Act of 1974 is located on each application for free and reduced price meals.
WRITTEN AGREEMENT BETWEEN SCHOOL DISTRICT AND AGENCY RECEIVING ELIGIBILITY INFORMATION
USDA recommends that the school district enter into a written agreement with the agency requesting the information. The agreement should:
PENALTIES FOR IMPROPER DISCLOSURE
The NSLA establishes a fine of not more than $1000, or imprisonment of not more than 1 year, or both, for publishing, divulging, disclosing, or making known in any manner or extent any eligibility information not authorized by Federal law.
PROTECTION OF STUDENTS
Protection of the identity for students eligible for free and reduced price meals should be the top priority when making disclosure decisions. Due to the liability involved for the information provider and the district, it is prudent for each district to establish a written policy and procedures for disclosure. Orientation of school staff and consistent administration of the district policy and procedures will provide the best protection of students. Consistent policy implementation can provide some defense if allegations concerning misuse of eligibility information arise. Districts that choose NOT to disclose eligibility information should have a written policy to that effect.