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Using Social Security Numbers for Enrollment


Section 7 (a) of the federal Privacy Act of 1974 addresses the use of social security numbers by federal, state, or local governments (including school districts) and states the following:

"It shall be unlawful for any Federal, State or local government agency to deny to any individual any right, benefit, or privilege provided by law because of such individual's refusal to disclose his social security account number."

This section goes on to provide two exceptions to the provision: (1) where the disclosure which is required by Federal statute, or (2) where disclosure relates to records that pre-date the adoption of the Privacy Act of 1974 (January 1, 1975), if such disclosure was required under statute or regulation adopted prior to such date to verify the identity of an individual.

If these exceptions do not apply, then the agency which requests the social security number shall inform that individual whether disclosure is mandatory or voluntary, by what statutory or other authority such number is solicited, and what uses will be made of it.

In summary, it is not a violation for the school district to ask for disclosure of the social security number, as requirements of the act are met. In most situations this would require notice that the disclosure is voluntary, a statement outlining why the number is requested and a description of how the information is to be used. Since refusal to disclose a social security number cannot be grounds for exclusion from a program, then the school district must be prepared to substitute an alternative number as an identifier.

Additional information regarding the disclosure of social security numbers is available on the U.S. Social Security Administration's website.

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