What is FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
What are Education Records?
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail, among others.
Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:
When do FERPA Rights Begin?
A student’s FERPA rights begin when the student registers and attends his/her first class.
Access to Student Education Records
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student are:
The College will not release personally identifiable information from a student’s education record without the student’s prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son or daughter’s education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents’ access. Exceptions include: access by “college officials” who the institution has determined to have a “legitimate educational interest;” access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid and subpoenas.
At Hartwick these terms are defined below:
“College official” is any person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position, a person elected to the Board of Trustees, a student serving on an official College committee, or a person employed by or under contract to the College to perform a specific task. A “College official” has a “legitimate educational interest” whenever he or she is performing a task that is specified in his or her position, description, or by a contract agreement, performing a task related to a student’s education, performing a task related to the discipline of a student, providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student’s family (such as healthcare, counseling, job placement, or financial aid) or disclosure of information in response to a judicial order or legally issued subpoena.
Student’s Right to Review and Correct His/Her Records
Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student’s education record provided such refusal does not limit access.
Limitations exist on students’ rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:
Students may ask the College to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the College official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the College will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his/her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
Granting Consent for Third Party Access (including parent/guardian access)
A student may elect to release portions of his or her academic record to a third party (including his or her parents or guardians). This may be done by completing a consent form and filing it with the Office of the Registrar. This form allows a student to grant a third party access to personally identifiable information contained in his or her educational records (grades, GPA, etc.). Note that personally identifiable information is only provided in writing (not via email) or in person and never over the phone.
What is Directory or Public Information?
FERPA has specifically identified certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent.
Hartwick has designated the following information as directory information and will release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:
Restricting Release of Directory Information
According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about him/her. Institutions must comply with this request, once received, if the student is still enrolled.
At Hartwick, students who wish to restrict the release of directory information about themselves must complete a “Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information” form, available in the Registrar’s Office. The completed form must be submitted in person to the Registrar’s Office and must be accompanied by a photo I.D. Students will be required to renew the request at the beginning of each academic year.
Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in the Commencement bulletin and other College publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees, and the like will be denied any of the student’s directory information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student’s attendance at Hartwick. Students who wish to have specific directory information released may do so by providing a written authorization to the Registrar’s Office.
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an educational 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 deal with the emergency.
The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) considers “Teaching Assistants” or “TAs”- whether graduate students or undergraduates – to be an extension of a faculty member, and, as a result, TA’s are afforded access to protected student information. Any TA who is provided access to protected grade information for other students (scores on quizzes, homework, etc.), must by law be familiar with FERPA regulations that apply to faculty and staff. As a TA, that individual assumes responsibility for adhering to all applicable FERPA laws.
The privacy rights of an individual expire with that individual’s death. Records held by an institution for a deceased person are not a FERPA issue but a matter of institutional policy. Hartwick will exercise its own discretion in deciding whether, and under what conditions, information should be disclosed to survivors or third parties. To that end, records will only be released to immediate family upon proof of lineage or under request of a legal official or subpoena in compliance with release under normal FERPA circumstances. Records of deceased students will also be released to those that can provide notarized proof of lineage (for non-immediate family members), usually in the form of a certified letter from the executor of the deceased student’s estate.
Annual Notification to Students
Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, Hartwick annually notifies students of the rights accorded them by FERPA.
Comments or questions should be addressed to the Hartwick Office of the Registrar at 607-431-4460.
Filing a Complaint
If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored his/her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-4605. The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.