FERPA Tips for Faculty and Staff
The Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA) is a 1974 federal law designed to protect the privacy of students. FERPA protects the privacy of students’ education records by setting forth strict limitations governing the release of information about students. Although FERPA contains exceptions for the release of “directory information” without a student’s prior written consent, students have the right to request that even such directory information not be disclosed.
Simplified, FERPA gives students the rights to:
- Control the disclosure of their “education records” to others
- Inspect and review their own “education records”
- Challenge the content of their “education records”
FERPA rights belong to the student, and not to the student’s parents or legal guardians, regardless of the student’s age. The term “education records” includes almost all information we maintain about our students including course schedules, grade reports, bursar’s bill, student financial aid, academic information and disciplinary records. Medical information is also protected by federal and state law and cannot be obtained without the student’s express written consent.
Talking to Parents and Others
A student’s academic performance is considered part of her education record and discussing the student’s performance with anyone other than the student or another school official with a “legitimate educational interest” is a violation of FERPA. At Bennett College, a faculty or staff member is deemed to have a “legitimate educational interest” if the person needs to review the record in order to fulfill his or her responsibilities. Do not discuss a student’s academic performance, grades, or other information from a student’s education record with anyone other than the student or school official with a “legitimate educational interest” unless:
- The student provides you with written consent to release the information to the person by signing a FERPA Release Form; or
- The parents or guardians provide you with proof that the student is claimed as a dependent for federal income tax purposes by providing a written notarized statement stating the student is claimed as their dependent for federal income tax purposes or by providing a copy of the first page of the IRS tax return for the current year showing the student is claimed as the dependent. Note: Parents often maintain proof of dependency with the Office of the Registrar-please feel free to rely on that proof after confirming that it is on file with the Office of the Registrar.
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of Recommendation should only contain allowed “directory information.” Any additional information such as grades, grade point average, or student employment information may not be included without written permission of the student.
FERPA and Legitimate Educational Interest
“Legitimate Educational Interest” means the demonstrated need to know by those officials of an institution who act in the student’s educational interest, including faculty, administration, student employees, clerical and professional employees, and other persons who manage student records information. Any school official who needs information about a student in the course of performing instructional, supervisory, advisory, or administrative duties for Bennett College has a legitimate educational interest.
EXCEPTIONS to Student Consent for Release of Educational Records
FERPA allows the institution the right to disclose student records or identifiable information without the student’s consent under the following circumstances:
- To authorized representatives for audit of Federal or State supported programs.
- To College employees who are in the process of carrying out their specifically assigned educational or administrative responsibilities acting in the student’s educational interest.
- Veteran’s Administration officials
- Officials of other institutions in which a student seeks or intends to enroll on the condition that the issuing institution makes a reasonable attempt to inform the student of the disclosure unless the student initiates the transfer.
- Persons or organizations providing financial aid to students.
- Organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions to develop, validate, and administer predictive tests, to administer student aid programs or to improve instruction, provided that individual identity of students is not made.
- Accrediting organizations carrying out their accrediting functions.
- Parents of a student who have established that student’s status as a dependent according to Internal Revenue Code of 1954, Section 152.
- Persons in compliance with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena, provided that the institution makes a reasonable attempt to notify the student in advance of compliance. NOTE: The institution is not required to notify the student if a federal grand jury subpoena, or any other subpoena issued for a law enforcement purpose, orders the institution not to disclose the existence or contents of the subpoena.
- Persons in an emergency, if the knowledge of information, in fact, is necessary to protect the health or safety of students or other persons.
- An alleged victim of any crime of violence of the results of any institutional disciplinary proceeding against the alleged perpetrator. The information may only be given in respect to the crime committed. Schools may disclose personally identifiable information from education records to an outside contractor or volunteer without prior written student consent if the outside contractor or volunteer is a “party acting for” the institution and is performing a service which the institution would otherwise have to perform for itself (as in the case of the National Student Loan Clearinghouse for loan verification or Credentials, Inc.).
Faculty and staff with questions regarding FERPA best procedures and practices for compliance, contact the firstname.lastname@example.org.