Subject: Sharing Protected Health Information in School Settings to Prevent Harm

To assist professionals working in school settings in understanding how they can act to prevent potential harm, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the U.S. Department of Education have posted guidance about disclosure of protected information when a young person presents a serious threat to the health or safety of themselves or others. What should you know?   

Key Points to Remember:

HIPAA permits health professionals to share PHI to prevent a serious or imminent threat of harm.  Information can be shared with law enforcement, family members of the patient, or other individuals in a position to intervene, like school administrators and security.  Click here and here for further information.

Health professionals are allowed to determine whether a serious or imminent threat exists.  Click here for more guidance about how to determine when a threat of harm may exist, and the ways that HIPAA permits health professionals to warn others. 

If a school-aged person is disqualified from owning a gun based on a mental health assessment, HIPAA permits health professionals to share limited information with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to prevent future gun violence.  Click here for further information. 

Sometimes, PHI that a health professional discloses to a school administrator becomes part of the education record, which is subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA permits school administrators to disclose this information to prevent a significant threat to health or safety, such as a campus shooting.  Click here for more information about FERPA. 

For More Information:


For additional resources related to the federal privacy laws, visit the Center of Excellence for Protected Health Information’s resource library, which can be found at 

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This resource was supported by SAMHSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award with 100% funded by SAMHSA/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by SAMHSA/HHS, or the U.S. Government.


Funded by SAMHSA, the CoE-PHI develops and disseminates resources, training, and TA for states, healthcare providers, school administrators and individuals and families to improve understanding and application of federal privacy laws and regulations, including FERPA, HIPAA, and 42 CFR Part 2, when providing and receiving treatment for SUD and mental illness.


Resources, training, technical assistance, and any other information provided through the CoE-PHI do not constitute legal advice.