What is FERPA? Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
What is FERPA? Comprehensively regulates student records Applicable to both public and private schools Affects elementary, secondary, and higher education Compliance is a condition of receiving federal funds Provides rights to parents of minor pre-college students, adults, and college students Provides notification to parents and students annually of their rights
What Rights? 1) Access to school records 2) Confidentiality of records 3) Opportunity to challenge accuracy
What are School Records? FERPA deals specifically with the education records of students. Education records are: 1) directly related to a student 2) maintained by an institution or a party acting for the institution 3) can be in any media: handwritten, print, type, film, computer screen, etc.
What are Education Records? Education Records are Not: 1) sole possession records (personal notes which are not shared with others) 2) law enforcement unit records 3) employment records 4) medical records 5) post-attendance records
What do you think? Joe Student is assigned to Annie Advisor. At one point during the year, he asks if he may view his education record, including everything Annie has written about him. He is concerned about what personal information Annie has included. Does FERPA allow him to access his records? A year later, Joe is assigned to Bill Advisor who “inherited” Joe (and his record) from Annie. If Joe asks to see his record again, would there be any limitation?
What do you think - Resolution As a general rule, Joe has access to all personally identifiable information that a school official of an institution maintains on him unless that information is not subject to FERPA. This does not appear to be the case here. Even advisor’s notes are education records since they were made in conjunction with another person (the student). Therefore, they are not “sole possession” notes.
What does Sole Possession Mean? What is an example of a “sole possession” note? Let’s say that Annie has Joe in one of her classes. She writes a note about his behavior in class and places the note in her personal “Joe” folder that only she (or a temporary substitute) has access to. That note, since it was made as a “memory aid” and is accessible only to herself and a temporary substitute in a file that only they have access to, is an example of a “sole possession” note.
What about confidentiality? Information contained in an education record that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed is called Directory Information.
Directory Information Directory Information at Muhlenberg includes the following: Name, college mail box and permanent address, telephone number, e-mail address Class year Status (full-time/part-time) Major field of study, dates of attendance Degrees and/or awards received Participation in officially recognized activities and sports Weight and heights of members of athletic teams
Directory Information Directory Information can NEVER be a student’s Social security number Berg ID Citizenship Gender Religious preference Grades GPA
Public Notice FERPA requires institutions to give public notice to students of the categories of personally identifiable information which the institution has designated as directory information. Students must be given a specific period of time within which they must inform institutions, in writing, that directory information is to be withheld.
What do you think? Every semester the registrar prints a list of students who have made Dean’s List and forwards it to the academic dean. Only one copy is printed, and the dean is the only one who receives it. Would the dean be allowed to publish all the names in the local newspaper if there is no written permission from the students to do so?
What do you think - Resolution The Institutional FERPA policy identifies what items of information the institution considers directory information. If the institution did not include “awards received” (in this case, honors) in its list of items considered “directory information”, the institution would have to obtain each student’s written permission before releasing the information to the media.
What about Parents? Parents have access to student records if their child is under the age of 18 and not attending a postsecondary institution. Parents of children 18 or over and/or attending a postsecondary institution: may obtain directory information may obtain non-directory information only at the discretion of the institution and after it has been determined that their child is legally dependent (usually requires an Income Tax Form). may obtain non-directory information by obtaining a signed consent from their child.
What do you think? Mary Student is a junior in high school, seventeen years old, and decides to take advantage of the joint high school/college enrollment option. She is using the coursework for both high school and college credit. Should the university release grade information to Mary’s parents?
What do you think – Resolution FERPA is clear that a student has rights to her education records once she begins attending an institution of higher education, regardless of her age. Therefore, Mary’s parents should be treated like any other parents of a typical college student. You may release non-directory information to them by either obtaining Mary’s written permission or by having them show that she is legally their dependent.
What about professors and confidentiality? Legitimate Educational Interest FERPA allows institutions to define. A common definition is as follows: “The demonstrated need to know by those officials of an institution who act in the student’s educational interest, including faculty, administration, clerical and professional employees, and other persons, including student employees or agents, who manage student record information.”
What do you think? While you are strolling around campus at the end of the semester, after grades are processed, you come across a group of graded term papers on the table outside of one faculty member’s office. The departmental secretary was told by the faculty member before he left for his annual holiday cruise in the Caribbean that some students may come by to pick up their term papers. He told the secretary where they were located and went on his way. Is this a FERPA violation?
What do you think - Resolution Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers unattended for students to pick through is no different from posting grades in the hallway. If these papers contain “personally identifiable” information (name), then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA if the instructor has not obtained the written permission of each student to do so.
What about records that are wrong? Students have the right to request amendment of records they consider to be wrong. Institutions are not required to change the record, but there must be a hearing. If a record is not changed, a student may include in the record a statement explaining the situation.
Why should we comply with FERPA? It’s the Law! FERPA legislation has the power to revoke federal funds to schools for proven FERPA violations.
Do you know what to do? Educational records are all around us. Each of us needs to do his/her part to keep this information secure and protect students’ rights. If there is any question in your mind regarding any request for education record information, it is always better to err on the conservative side and ask for guidance.
Ask someone Office of the Registrar (484) 664-3190 Family Policy Compliance Office www.ed.gov/offices/OM/fpco