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FERPA at Utica College

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of the student education records.

FERPA applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

The essence of FERPA is to give a student the right to inspect his or her education records and to protect the privacy of these records. Utica College fully complies with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act and its implementing regulations, each as amended (collectively known as FERPA) and with guidelines recommended by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO). This website provides general information about FERPA, answers to questions that are frequently asked by students, parents, faculty, and staff.
 

Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility at UC.

At its discretion Utica College may release, without the written consent of the student, those items specified as "directory information" in accordance with the provisions of the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA). Directory Information is defined as information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Designated directory information at Utica College includes, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Student's Name
  • Local Address/Campus Residence/Telephone Numbers
  • Permanent Address/Telephone Number
  • Telephone Number
  • E-mail Address
  • Date and Place of Birth
  • Hometown
  • Degrees and Awards Received and Dates
  • Dates of Attendance (Current and Past)
  • Full or Part-time Enrollment Status
  • Participation in Officially Recognized Activities/Sports
  • Weight/Height of Members of Athletic Teams
  • Most Recently Attended Educational Institution
  • Major Field of Study
  • Academic Levels
  • Residency Status
  • Photographs

Directory information may be released without the written consent of the student unless the student has filed the FERPA Consent Form. Utica College may not disclose or confirm directory information without the student's written consent if the student's social security number or other non-directory information is used alone or combined with other data elements to identify the student.

Prior consent is not required to disclose personally identifiable information:

  • To "school officials" who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the student". In general, a school official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility to the College. Records should be used only in the context of official educational business.
  • To another institution to which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
  • To federal, state, and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs.
  • In connection with financial aid (such as the administration or continuation of aid).
  • To individuals or organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of an educational institution.
  • To regional or professional accreditation organizations.
  • To parents of a dependent student, if the parent has provided to the Registrar's Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040).
  • In response to a lawfully issued court order or subpoena (normally handled by the Registrar, Bursar, other official record custodian and/or Legal Counsel)
  • In the event that the release of information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
  • If the disclosure is the result of a disciplinary hearing where the student is the perpetrator for a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense. Under this exception, information may be released to anyone, including the media. No information on the victim or witnesses may be released.
  • To parents of a student under the age of 21 who has committed a drug or alcohol related offense.

A student's FERPA rights begin with his or her registered attendance at UC. Attendance need not be physical, such as in cases of correspondence and distance learning courses. Applicants who are denied admission or who are admitted but never attend are not covered under FERPA. There is no end point for FERPA rights - as long as the student is living. FERPA grants four primary rights to the student:
 

  • The right to review and inspect any education record to which he or she is permitted under this policy. To do so, they must direct their request in writing to the person responsible for the file they wish to inspect. The request normally will be honored at the time of its receipt, if staff are available, but in no case later than 45 days after the request is made. Students have the right to review all material in their file unless they have waived their right of access. They have the right to receive a copy of any portion of their record, which will be made available to them at a charge of $1 for the first page requested and 10 cents for each additional page, with the exception of transcripts, which will be made available at a charge of $5 per paper copy and $4 per electronic copy. The College reserves the right to refuse to permit a student to inspect the following records:
     
    • Records that contain information on more than one student. A student may inspect only that information which relates to him/her.
    • Financial records of the student's parents.
    • Confidential letters and statements of recommendation for which the student has waived his or her right of inspection and review.
    • Records connected with an application to attend the University or a component unit of the UC if that application was denied.
    • Those records which are excluded from the FERPA definition of education records.
       
  • The right to have their educational records amended or corrected. If a student should wish to do so, the College will attempt to resolve the dispute informally, through the person having responsibility for the file. If this attempt proves to be unsatisfactory to the student making the challenge, the student may request the president of the College to convene a formal hearing. The president or a faculty or staff member appointed by the president, who shall have no direct interest in the outcome, will conduct the hearing. The hearing will be held within a reasonable time following the request, and the student will be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised. The decision will be rendered in writing by the official conducting the hearing within a reasonable time after the conclusion of the hearing.
     
  • The right to limit disclosure of some portions of their educational records. Students may complete and submit the FERPA Consent Form. Students should consider all aspects of a directory information hold prior to filing such a request. If you wish to prevent Utica College from releasing any directory information, and any requests for such information from non-institutional persons or organizations will be refused (i.e., your name will not appear in the commencement program, we will not be able to confirm your degree to a prospective employer, your name will not be provided to honor societies that wish to invite you to join, etc.). Requests for non-disclosure that were made while a student was in attendance continue to be honored, even after the student leaves the College unless the request is revoked by the student (or former student).To revoke a directory hold, students may complete and submit a Revocation of Request to Withhold Directory Information.
     
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by institutions to comply with the Act. The complaint must be made within 180 days of when the infraction was discovered, and there must be sufficient evidence to prove the violation. The name and address of the office that administer FERPA is:

    Family Policy Compliance Office
    U.S. Department of Education
    400 Maryland Ave., SW.
    Washington, DC 20202-4605
    Phone: 800-872-5327


At UC, students are notified annually of their FERPA rights in the Student Handbook, University catalog, and the Registrar's web page.

Post-secondary schools (such as UC) are not required by FERPA to release or provide access to academic information to a student's parent or legal guardian and, in fact, may not do so except under the following conditions:

  1. A student completes and submits the FERPA Consent Form that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s) or
     
  2. The parent(s) establish that the student is a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152.

Students may release their academic records to a third party such as a prospective employer, insurance companies, etc., by providing written consent. The notice of written consent must include the following information:

  • It must specify the records to be released (transcripts, etc.)
  • State the purpose of the disclosure
  • Identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made, and
  • Be signed and dated by the student

 

 

When a student attends the elementary or secondary school level, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gives the parent and the student rights to access and control the student's educational records. Once a student enrolls in a post-secondary school, FERPA transfers ownership of the records directly to the student.

According to FERPA, college students (regardless of their age) are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. While parents understandably have an interest in a student's academic progress, they are not automatically granted access to a student's records without documented consent from the student. Information regarding education records is best obtained by direct communication between the parent and the student.

Parents, like any other third party, may obtain directory information at the discretion of the institution. A student may provide parental access to his/her financial bill and education records by adding them as an Authorized User to their UC information.

If the parent has provided to the Registrar's Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040), then access to education records may be allowed.

Also, parent(s) may be notified if a student under 21 years of age is found responsible for a violation involving use or possession of alcohol and drugs. FERPA regulations allow, but do not require, higher education institutions to provide notice to parents when a student violates federal, state, or local laws related to alcohol or drugs.

In case of emergency, if the non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to address the emergency.

Faculty members and staff are considered "school officials." Under FERPA, school officials may obtain access to only those education records in which they have legitimate educational interests. "Legitimate educational interest" is defined as an interest which results from the duties officially assigned to a school official and which are related to such a school official's responsibility for facilitating the student's development. In other words, a faculty member or staff should only access those student education records that are needed to perform his or her job as an official of the college. Any other access is a violation of FERPA.

Student education records are considered confidential and should not be released to any person without the written consent of the student. However, there are a number of exceptions to FERPA's prohibition against non-consensual disclosure of personally identifiable information from education records. Prior consent is not required to disclose personally identifiable information:

  • To "school officials" who have a "legitimate educational interest" in the student." In general, a school official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility to the College. Records should be used only in the context of official educational business.
  • To another institution to which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
  • To federal, state, and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs.
  • In connection with financial aid (such as the administration or continuation of aid).
  • To individuals or organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of an educational institution.
  • To regional or professional accreditation organizations.
  • To parents of a dependent student, if the parent has provided to the Registrar's Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040).
  • In response to a lawfully issued court order or subpoena (normally handled by the Registrar, Bursar, other official record custodian and/or Legal Counsel)
  • In the event that the release of information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
  • If the disclosure is the result of a disciplinary hearing where the student is the perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense. Under this exception, information may be released to anyone, including the media. No information on the victim or witnesses may be released.
  • To parents of a student under the age of 21 who has committed a drug or alcohol related offense.

As a faculty member or staff, you have a responsibility to protect the confidentiality of education records in your possession, regardless of the medium in which the records are stored or presented. Unauthorized release of student record without the written consent of the student may trigger legal sanctions. However, information that is defined as "directory information" may be released without student consent unless the student has directed the college to withhold such information. If such a hold is in place, then no information may be released about that student, including no verification whether or not the individual is a student at UC. If a student has a CONFIDENTIAL flag, a screen will appear on Banner when that student's record is accessed. This screen indicates that information release is restricted at the request of the student. The Banner web versions of class rolls (class lists) and advisee lists also include designations for students who have CONFIDENTIAL flags. Protection of student privacy is crucial, and the consequences of mishandling of student information are significant. When in doubt, do not release student information - consult your department head, college administrators, or the Registrar's Office. The better assist faculty and staff with requests for access to or disclosure of information from education records a Checklist is available here.

What happens during crisis situations and emergencies?

If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to address the emergency. If the information is released in this type of situation, a record must be placed in the student's file describing the articulable and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure (the circumstances of the emergency).

FERPA Consent Form - Students may ask the college not to publicly disclose directory information, they may place limited privacy on their educational record or indicate who has access to their record. Current student may also use this form to revoke/cancel any previous request.

Revocation of Request to Withhold Directory Information - Former students may revoke/cancel the previous request for non-disclosure of directory information.

Consent to Release Confidential Information: One-Time Release - Utica College, in compliance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), requires written consent of the student before releasing protected information from their record. To consent to the one-time release of confidential information to a third party, you must complete this form and return it to the Office of the Registrar. All information is required.

Act:
Refers to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended, enacted as Section 438 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. 1232g)

Agent:
A person or business formally authorized to act on another's behalf.

Alumni Record:
"Records created or received by an educational . . . institution after an individual is no longer a student in attendance and that are not directly related to the individual's attendance as a student." 34 C.F.R. § 99.3.

Alumnus:
A graduate or former student of a particular school, college, or university.

Attendance:
Includes but is not limited to (a) attendance in person or by correspondence, videoconference, satellite, Internet, or other electronic information and telecommunications technologies for students who are not physically present in the classroom and (b) the period during which a person is working under a work-study (cooperative) program 34 C.F.R. § 99.3.

Authorized Representative:
Any entity or individual designated by a State or local educational authority or an agency headed by an official listed in §99.31(a)(3) to conduct-with respect to Federal- or State-supported education programs-any audit or evaluation, or any compliance or enforcement activity in connection with Federal legal requirements that relate to these programs. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(b)(1)(C), (b)(3), and (b)(5)

Contractor:
Outside parties who, for the purpose of The Act, qualify as school officials in that they are acting for the agency or institution and are subject to the same conditions governing the access and use of records that apply to other school officials.

Dates of Attendance:
The period of time during which a student attends or attended an institution. Examples of dates of attendance include an academic year and/or a semester. The term does not include specific daily records or a student's attendance pattern at the institution. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(5)(A)

Directory Information:
The information contained in an education record of a student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. It includes, but is not limited to, the student's name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, grade level, enrollment status (e.g., full-time or part-time), participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, degrees, honors and awards received, and most recent education agency or institution attended. (At Utica College directory information includes student's name; e-mail address; address of student; phone number of student; date and place of birth; year of graduate; weight and height (applicable to members of athletic teams only); previous educational institutions attended; enrollment status (full-time, half-time); photograph; major field of study; dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; degrees, honors, and awards received.) 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(5)(A)

NOTE: Items that can never be identified as directory information include a student's social security number, citizenship, gender, race, ethnicity, class schedule, religious preference, grades, and GPA.

Disclosure:
"to permit access to, or the release of "directory information," meaning "information . . . that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed," including, but not limited to, "the student's name; address; telephone listing; electronic mail address; photograph; date and place of birth; major field of study; grade level; enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time); dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; degrees, honors and awards received; and the most recent educational agency or institution attended." 34 C.F.R. §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.3.

Education Institution (or Agency):
"any public or private . . . institution" that receives funds "under any program administered by the Secretary [of Education]," most notably including the various federal financial aid programs. 34 C.F.R. §§ 99.1 and 99.3.

Education Records:
Those records directly related to a student and maintained by the institution or by a party acting for the institution.

The term "education records" does not include the following:
 

  • Records of institutional, supervisory, administrative, and certain educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except a substitute who performs on a temporary basis (as defined in the institutional personnel policy) the duties of the individual who made the records.
     
  • Records maintained by a law enforcement unit of the education agency or institution that were created by that law enforcement unit for the purpose of law enforcement.
     
  • Records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution which are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to individuals in their capacity as employees and are not available for use for any other purpose. (Records of individuals in attendance at an institution who are employed as a result of their status as students are education records, e.g., work-study.)
     
  • Records relating to a student (see the definition of "eligible student") which are (1) created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in his or her professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity; (2) used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student; and (3) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment, so long as the records can be personally reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice. (Appropriateness may be determined by the institution.) "Treatment" in this context does not include remedial educational activities or activities which are part of the program of instruction at the institution.
     
  • Records of an institution which contain only information relating to a person after that person is no longer a student at the institution (e.g., information gathered on the accomplishments of alumni).
     
  • Grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by a teacher. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(a)(4)

"Eligible Student":
A student who has reached 18 years of age or is attending an institution of post-secondary education. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(d)

Enrolled Student:
The Family Policy Compliance Office has stated that each institution may determine when a student is "in attendance" in accordance with its enrollment procedures (Federal Register, July 6, 2000, p.41856).

Family Policy Compliance Office:
The office within the U.S. Department of Education that is responsible for enforcing/administering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended. This office has responsibility for FERPA at all levels of education (K-12, post-secondary).

Financial Aid:
A payment of funds to an individual (or payment in a tangible or intangible property to the individual), which is considered on the individual's attendance at an educational agency or institution. Payment made by parents is not considered financial aid.

In Attendance:
See "Enrolled Student."

Institution of Postsecondary Education:
An institution that provides education to students beyond the secondary school level. "Secondary school level" means the educational level (not beyond grade 12) at which secondary education is provided. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(d)

Law Enforcement Unit:
Any individual or other component(s) of an institution, including commissioned police officers and non-commissioned security guards, officially authorized by the institution to enforce any local, state, or federal law and to maintain the physical security and safety of the institution. (Although the unit may perform other non-law enforcement functions, it does not lose its status as a law enforcement unit.)

Law Enforcement Unit Records:
"Those records, files, documents, and other materials that are (1) created by a law enforcement unit, (2) created for a law enforcement purpose, and (3) maintained by the law enforcement unit. Law enforcement records do not include: (1) records created by a law enforcement unit for a law enforcement purpose other than for the law enforcement unit; (2) records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit exclusively for non-law enforcement purposes, such as a disciplinary action or proceeding conducted by the institution" 34 C.F.R. §§ 99.3 and 99.8.

Legitimate Educational Interest:
Although the Act does not define "legitimate educational interest", it states that institutions must establish their own criteria, according to their own procedures and requirements, for determining when their school officials have a legitimate educational interest in a student's education records. At Utica College, a school official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

Parent:
Includes a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian. 20 U.S.C. 1232g

Party:
Refers to an individual, agency, institution, or organization. 20 U.S.C. 1232g(b)(4)(A)

Personally Identifiable Information:
Data or information which "includes, but is not limited to,
 

  1. the name of the student, the student's parent, or other family members;
  2. the address of the student or the student's family;
  3. a personal identifier such as a social security number or student number;
  4. other indirect identifiers, such as the student's date of birth, place of birth, or mother's maiden name;
  5. other information that alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student;
  6. information requested by a person who the educational . . . institution reasonably knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates." 34 C.F.R. § 99.3.


Records:
Any information or data recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, audio or video tapes, film, microfilm, microfiche, or any other form of electronic data storage 34 C.F.R. § 99.3.

Redisclosure:
An institution disclosing personally identifiable information from an education record must inform the recipient that it cannot redisclose that information without the consent of the student and that it may use the information only for the purpose for which the disclosure was made. 34 C.F.R. § 99.33(a). Exceptions to this requirement include disclosures of directory information; disclosures to the relevant student, to the parents of a dependent student, or to parents in connection with a drug or alcohol violation; and disclosures made in connection with a court order, lawfully issued subpoena, lawsuit in which the student and the institution are adversaries, or (generally) disciplinary proceeding involving an alleged crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense. 34 C.F.R. § 99.33(c).

School Officials:
Those members of an institution who act in the student's educational interest within the limitations of their "need to know." Although the Act does not define "school officials," it states that institutions must establish their own criteria, according to their own procedures and requirements, for determining them. At Utica College, a "school official" is any person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position (including law enforcement unit, health staff, and student workers); a person of a company with whom Utica College has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, researcher, software consultant, a company which provides student helpdesk assistance, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; a person assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.

Sole Possession Records:
"Records that are kept in the sole possession of the maker are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record." 34 C.F.R. § 99.3. For example, the private notes a professor may keep about class participation over the course of a semester, for consultation when it comes time to set final grades.

Solomon Amendment:
This 1996 amendment requires postsecondary institutions to provide Department of Defense representatives, among other things, access to student recruiting information.

Student:
Any individual who is or has been in attendance at an educational agency or institution for whom the agency or institution maintains education records. The term does not include an individual who has never attended the institution 34 C.F.R. § 99.3.

Student Right-to-Know Act of 1990:
Referred to in this publication as SRTK, the act requires colleges and universities to report graduation rates to current and prospective students.

Subpoena:
A command from a court to require the person named in the subpoena to appear at a stated time and place to provide testimony or evidence. There are two main types of subpoenas: "duces tecum" (requires the production of documents, papers, or other tangibles) and "ad testificandum" (requires a person to testify in a particular court case).

Transfer Exception:
The disclosure to another educational institution "where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled so long as the disclosure is for purposes related to the student's enrollment or transfer." 34 C.F.R. § 99.31(a)(2). " The disclosing institution must first give notice that it intends to respond to requests from other institutions for such information, either by making a "reasonable attempt" to notify the relevant students individually or - preferably - by informing all students generally in its annual notice. 34 C.F.R. § 99.34. Any prior school may disclose to the current or anticipated school under this exception, but the current or anticipated school may not use this exception to report back to prior schools.

U.S.A. Patriot Act:
It permits a post-secondary institution to disclose personally identifiable information from a student's education records-without notification of the student-to the U.S. Attorney General or his designee.

U.S.C.:
United States Code. A compilation of all federal legislation organized into 50 titles. Revised every six years with supplementary volumes issued in intervening years. The legislation related to FERPA is found in 20 U.S.C. 1232g.

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS


General Questions

What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that affords students the right to have access to their education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education records. When a student turns 18 years old or enters a postsecondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student ("eligible student"). The FERPA statute is found at 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the FERPA regulations are found at 34 CFR Part 99.

When do FERPA Rights begin?
A FERPA-related college education record begins for a student when he or she enrolls in a higher education institution. At a post-secondary institution rights belong to the student in attendance, regardless of the student's age.

What records are exempted from FERPA?
Exempted from the definition of education records are those records which are kept in the sole possession of the maker of the records and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the records. Once the contents or information recorded in sole possession records is disclosed to any party other than a temporary substitute for the maker of the records, those records become education records subject to FERPA. Generally, sole possession records are of the nature to serve as a "memory jogger" for the creator of the record. For example, if a school official has taken notes regarding telephone or face to face conversations, such notes could be sole possession records depending on the nature and content of the notes.

How may a parent or eligible student file a FERPA complaint with the Department of Education?
A parent or eligible student may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office regarding an alleged violation under of FERPA. The complaint must be timely (submitted to the office within 180 days of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably knew of the violation) and state clearly and succinctly specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that the school has violated FERPA.


From Parents

Who is a parent?
The term "parent" is defined as including natural parent(s), a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian. Source: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(d)

In some cases, a stepparent may be considered a "parent" under FERPA if the stepparent is present on a day-to-day basis with the natural parent and child and the other parent is absent from that home. Conversely, a stepparent who is not present on a day-to-day basis in the home of the child does not have rights under FERPA with respect to the child's education records. A grandparent or other caregiver who is acting in the absence of the parent(s) may also be considered a "parent" under FERPA. Source: 34 CFR § 99.3

If a student under 18 is enrolled in both high school and a local college, do parents have the right to inspect and review his or her education records?
If a student is attending a postsecondary institution - at any age - the rights under FERPA have transferred to the student. However, in a situation where a student is enrolled in both a high school and a postsecondary institution, the two schools may exchange information on that student. If the student is under 18, the parents still retain the rights under FERPA at the high school and may inspect and review any records sent by the postsecondary institution to the high school. Additionally, the postsecondary institution may disclose personally identifiable information from the student's education records to the parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS rules.

Are educational agencies and institutions required to notify parents and eligible students of their rights under FERPA?
Yes. Educational agencies and institutions must annually notify parents and eligible students of their rights under FERPA. Specifically, schools must notify parents and eligible students of the right: to inspect and review education records and the procedures to do so; to seek amendment of records the parent or eligible student believes are inaccurate and the procedures to so do; to consent to disclosures of education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent; and to file a complaint with FPCO concerning potential violations. Postsecondary institutions are only required to notify eligible students of their rights under FERPA. Source: 34 CFR § 99.7

In the case of a divorce, do both parents have rights under FERPA?
Generally yes. Unless a school is provided with evidence that there is a court order, State law, or other legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody that specifically provides to the contrary, FERPA gives custodial and noncustodial parents alike certain rights with respect to their children's education records. A school may ask for legal certification denoting parenthood, such as a birth certificate or court order, from the parent requesting access. Source: 34 CFR § 99.4

Must postsecondary institutions provide a parent with access to an eligible student's education records?
While the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents to the student when the student turns18 or enrolls in a postsecondary institution at any age, FERPA provides ways in which an institution can share education records on the student with his or her parents. Schools may disclose any and all information to parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS rules. FERPA also permits a school to disclose information from an eligible student's education records to parents if a health or safety emergency involves their son or daughter. Another provision in FERPA permits a college or university to let parents of students under the age of 21 know when the student has violated any law or policy concerning the use of possession of alcohol or a controlled substance. School officials may also share information with a parent about an eligible student that is based on that official's personal knowledge or observation and that is not based on information contained in an education record.

How can I gain access to my child's academic and financial information?
Once a student is enrolled in a post-secondary institution, like UC, the rights under FERPA belong to the student and not the parent. You should work with your child and have them give you the information. If you claimed your child on last year's income taxes, UC MAY release information. To receive this information, you must submit a copy of your tax statement showing the student as a dependent and a request stating what information you would like and why. UC must then record in the student's permanent record what they released, to whom, and that it was done under the dependency exception. The student may also submit a FERPA Consent Form indicating what information they are releasing to whom.

May an educational agency or institution disclose information over the phone?
While FERPA does not specifically prohibit a school from disclosing personally identifiable information from a student's education records over the telephone, it does require that the school use reasonable methods to identify and authenticate the identity of parents, students, school officials, and any other parties to whom the school discloses personally identifiable information from education records. 34 CFR § 99.31(c).

How does a school know when a health or safety emergency exists so that disclosure may be made under this exception to consent?
An educational agency or institution must make this determination on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of a student or others. If the school determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of a student or other individuals and that a third party needs PII from education records to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals, it may disclose that information to appropriate parties without consent.

May an educational agency or institution disclose directory information without prior consent?
Education records that have been appropriately designated as "directory information" by the educational agency or institution may be disclosed without prior consent. See 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(11) and 99.37. FERPA defines directory information as information contained in an education record of a student that would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. 34 CFR § 99.3.

FERPA provides that a school may disclose directory information if it has given public notice of the types of information which it has designated as "directory information," the parent or eligible student's right to restrict the disclosure of such information, and the period of time within which a parent or eligible student has to notify the school in writing that he or she does not want any or all of those types of information designated as "directory information." 34 CFR § 99.37(a). A school is not required to inform former students or the parents of former students regarding directory information or to honor their request that directory information not be disclosed without consent. 34 CFR § 99.37(b). However, if a parent or eligible student, within the specified time period during the student's last opportunity as a student in attendance, requested that directory information not be disclosed, the school must honor that request until otherwise notified.


From Students

Who is an eligible student?
An "eligible student" means a student who has reached the age of 18 or who is attending a postsecondary institution at any age. Once a student becomes an "eligible student," the rights afforded his or her parents under FERPA transfer to that student. Source: 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(d)

What email accounts can I use with FERPA-protected information?
If the email system is provided by the college and is within the college's firewall you may send confidential data in an email. Emails to or from students, or anyone outside the UC domain, should be treated like a postcard and only include directory or non-FERPA data. Send any confidential information to students through UC email.

An eligible student that opted out of directory information has left the school. Now that the student is no longer in attendance, may the school disclose that student’s directory information?
No, a school is required to honor the eligible student's request to opt out of the disclosure of directory information made while the student was in attendance unless the student rescinds the opt-out request.

Does a spouse of an eligible student have rights with respect to that student's education records?
No, spouses of eligible students have no rights under FERPA. Before a college or university discloses information from a student's education records to his or her spouse, the student would have to provide written consent.


From Faculty

Who is a "school official" under FERPA?
A "school official” includes a teacher, school principal, president, chancellor, board member, trustee, registrar, counselor, admissions officer, attorney, accountant, human resources professional, information systems specialist, and support or clerical personnel. A contractor, consultant, volunteer, or other party to whom a school or institution has outsourced institutional services or functions may also be considered a "school official" provided that they are performing an institutional service or function for which the agency would otherwise use employees and is under the direct control of the agency or institution with respect to the use and maintenance of education records. See 34 CFR § 99.31(a)(1)(i)(B).

Does FERPA permit school officials to release information that they personally observed or of which they have personal knowledge?
FERPA applies to the disclosure of education records and of PII from education records that are maintained by the school. Therefore, FERPA does not prohibit a school official from releasing information about a student that was obtained through the school official's personal knowledge or observation, rather than from the student's education records. For example, if a teacher overhears a student making threatening remarks to other students, FERPA does not protect that information from disclosure. Therefore, a school official may disclose what he or she overheard to appropriate authorities, including disclosing the information to local law enforcement officials, school officials, and parents.

Is it permissible to release GPA to honors organizations without consent?
No. FERPA does not generally permit a school to disclose a student's GPA without the parent's or eligible student's consent.

I want to use online tool or application as part of my course. However, I am worried that it is a violation of FERPA. What should I do?
A teacher should check with their school administration to see what has been defined as directory information. As long as using the application would not require disclosing more than directory information and none of the students have opted out of directory information, it would not be a violation of FERPA.

A student has opted out of directory information and wants to be anonymous on an online course. Are we required to allow the student to take the course anonymously?
No. Under FERPA, a student may not use his or her right to opt out of directory information disclosures to prevent school officials from identifying the student by name or disclosing the student's electronic identifier or institutional e-mail address in class.

What are acceptable methods for returning assignments and exams?
Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers (exams, homework, etc.) unattended for students to view is a form of publicly posting grades. If these papers contain personally identifiable information, then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA. If papers cannot be returned personally and individually during class, an alternative would be to leave the graded papers with an assistant who would ask students for proper identification before releasing them.

May I publicly post grades?
The public posting of grades by the student's name, student ID, or social security number, without the student's written permission, is a violation of FERPA. If necessary, instructors can assign students unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades, but the order of the posting must not be alphabetic. Students may access grades on Banner Web soon after they are posted by faculty.

Am I required to verify the identity of the student or others to whom I disclose education records?
Yes. FERPA requires that institutions use "reasonable methods" to verify the identity of students, school officials, parents and others to whom information from education records is disclosed. The use of "widely available" information to verify the identity, such as name, date of birth, social security number or student ID number, is not considered reasonable or sufficient. If the student's social security number or other non-directory information is used alone or combined with another date we must not disclose or confirm directory information.

Identity verification must include at least one element that is either known or possessed only by that person, for example:

  • Photo ID
  • Random PIN or token
  • Password
  • Biometric factors (ex: fingerprint scan, voice or facial recognition, etc.)

What are the limits in working with parents?
At the elementary and secondary school level, FERPA gives parents the right to access education records. When a student reaches 18 years of age or is attending an institution of postsecondary education, FERPA rights transfer from parent to student. Therefore, at the postsecondary level, parents have no inherent rights to access their son's or daughter's education records.

Information such as a student's enrollment in a course, class attendance, or progress/grades in a course is personally identifiable information that constitutes part of the student's education record that is protected under FERPA. Parents may not have access unless the student has provided written authorization. If a student has filed a consent form to give parents access to student records, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated. Please contact the Office of the Registrar to obtain information on whether a student has filed a consent form of not.

Parents of a dependent student may challenge the denial of access to educational records by providing to the Registrar's Office evidence that they declare the student as a dependent on their most recent Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040). If such a form has been filed, faculty members may release information to parents, provided the identity of the parents has been authenticated. Please contact the Office of the Registrar to obtain information on Federal Income Tax form (Form 1040).
Even if no specific information can be released about a student, faculty members may be able to assist parents by providing general information that does not violate FERPA. Course requirements, a copy of the course syllabus, and other similar information may be helpful.

How should I handle letters of recommendation?
As a faculty member, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a student. If the letter includes information that falls within FERPA's definition of educational records, such as grade point average or other non-directory indicators, the student's written consent to disclose this information would be necessary. Unless the student has waived the right of access to the letter, he or she would have the right to read it, because it is part of the student's educational record.

The written release from the student should:

  • specify the records that may be disclosed
  • state the purpose of the disclosure, and
  • identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made (FERPA § 99.30)

Statements in a recommendation that are based on the faculty member's personal observations about a student do not require a written release from the student.

Why can't I post grades by the last four digits of a student's SSN?
The public posting of grades by any of the following methods without the student's written permission is a violation of FERPA:

  • Student's name.
  • Any part of the student's social security number.
  • Student's institutional identification number.

E-mailing grades is not recommended. A student's written permission is required to e-mail grades to any account other than a UC e-mail account, but this practice is not recommended by the College since there is no guarantee of confidentiality on the Internet even via the UC e-mail account.

May I include a GPA in a letter of recommendation that the student has asked me to write?
Statements made by a faculty making a recommendation that are made from that faculty's personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student's education record is included in the letter of recommendation (for example GPA), then you are required to obtain a signed release from the student. The release will need to specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made. This student release should be requested from the student prior to writing a letter of recommendation. * Faculty are not required to maintain the letters of recommendation, but it is suggested that they do retain the permission letter for 6 months.

What can I include in the recommendation? What Can't I include?
When you write a letter of recommendation, you must have a written request from the student and you can only include what the student authorizes you to include.

What do I have to do to comply with FERPA in returning examinations and term papers?
Leaving personally-identifiable, graded papers unattended for students to pick through is no different from posting grades in a hallway. If these papers contain personally-identifiable information, 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 make his or her coursework accessible in this public manner.

BEST PRACTICE:

  • Place each student's coursework in a sealed envelope with only the student's name printed on the envelope.
  • Identify each student with a code word or randomly assigned number known only to the faculty member and the student. Identify all coursework by this code number.
  • Return completed coursework during class.
  • Have students collect their coursework from the departmental administrative assistant only after the administrative assistant has affirmed the student's identification via a photo ID. (Check to see if this service is available in your academic division first.)
  • Obtain and maintain each student's written permission to distribute coursework in a public manner.

A parent has called me about his/her child's performance in my class. What can I tell?
Progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, final grades, grades on exams, and other information about academic progress are examples of the confidential information that makes up part of a student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents do not have access to it unless the student has provided consent to the release of this information. You can verify the parent's authorization to access the student's education record through the Office of the Registrar. When a parent calls you and wants this information over the phone, it is recommended this be done in person or with the student present in your office who can verify the identity of the person on the phone.

Can I pass around a class list to take attendance?
Do not record attendance by passing around a class list, which contains the students SSN/Student ID or username.

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Training Materials

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