From the article:
"At the K-12 level, FERPA generally allows parents to review their children’s educational records. Parents also must consent to the release of records that contain personally identifiable information. Once a student turns 18, or starts college, those rights transfer from the parent to the student.
Under FERPA, schools are allowed, however, to release information from education records to parents if the health or safety of a student is at stake, or if the parents claim the student as a dependent on federal income-tax forms.
At Virginia Tech, concern over violating privacy laws appears to have prevented some officials from sharing information with Mr. Cho’s parents and other organizations within the university that they were actually allowed to disclose, according to the review panel.
For instance, while FERPA protects student records maintained by the educational institution, it does not apply to a professor’s personal observations of a student’s behavior, according to guidance provided by the federal Education Department that is included as an appendix to the panel’s report.
In Mr. Cho’s case, several professors in the English department were aware that he had written violent stories and had taken pictures of students during class without their permission. They could have contacted Mr. Cho’s parents with that information without violating FERPA, the report says." (Italics mine.)