Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law that protects the privacy and handling of student educational records.
Who does FERPA cover?
All students and former students of the University are covered by FERPA. This does not apply to any information submitted prior to January 1, 1975, or to applicants who applied, but did not attend.
What are educational records?
An educational record is any record that is directly related to a student that is maintained by the University of West Alabama in any media form (handwriting, print, type, electronic, etc).
Educational records do not include:
- Records/notes in sole possession of maker not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute
- Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment
- Records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit for law enforcement purposes
- Information on a person that was obtained when no longer a student (i.e. alumni records) that does not relate to the person as a student
- Medical records: Records on a student that are made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in his professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity; made, maintained, or used only in connection with treatment; and disclosed only to individuals providing the treatment
- Grades on peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by a teacher.
What rights do students have under FERPA?
Students have the following rights under FERPA:
- The right to inspect and review their educational records
- The right to have their records amended if they are inaccurate or misleading
- The right to restrict the disclosure of Directory Information
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they feel that any of their rights have been violated.
What documents does a student not have a right to see?
- Financial information submitted by parents
- Confidential letters and recommendations placed in student’s file before January 1, 1975
- Confidential letters, etc., associated with admissions, employment, job placement or honors to which a student has waived rights of inspection and review
- Educational records containing information about other students such as grades, test scores, etc.
What rights do parents, guardians, spouses, etc. have under FERPA?
Under FERPA definition, all rights transfer to an “eligible student” once the student reaches 18 years of age or is attending any school beyond high school. Personally identifiable information and educational records of an eligible student may only be disclosed to parents, guardians, spouses, etc. with written consent by the student. The Consent Form for Release of Educational Records must be signed by the student and must identify specific individuals to whom the information may be disclosed. This form will be placed in the student’s record housed in the Office of the Registrar. The form can be located in the eForms section of the UWA website.
What information can be released without student consent?
The law allows disclosure without consent to:
- School employees who have a legitimate educational interest
- Other schools to which a student is transferring
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to the student
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
- Accrediting organizations
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
- State and local authorities pursuant to specific State law.
What is “Directory Information” and what does it include?
Schools may disclose, without consent, “Directory Information” such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. A student who wishes to restrict the disclosure of Directory Information may do so by completing the Request to Restrict Disclosure of Directory Information form and submitting it to the Office of the Registrar. Directory Information includes the following:
- Name, mailing address, email address, telephone listing
- Date and place of birth
- Major and minor fields of study
- Participation in officially recognized athletics and other activities, including weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Enrollment status
- Anticipated degrees
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards received
- The most recent previous educational institution attended.
What should faculty and staff know about FERPA?
FERPA requires that faculty and staff members protect the confidentiality of student educational records. Any requests for student academic information should be referred to the Registrar’s Office.
How can faculty and staff avoid FERPA violations?
- Don’t post student grades by name, student number, Social Security Number or in any other personally identifiable manner.
- Don’t leave papers with student names or numbers in publicly accessible places.
- Don’t leave confidential information displayed on an unattended computer.
- Don’t circulate class lists, electronically or in print, with the student name and Social Security Number or student number.
- Don’t provide anyone with student schedules.
- Don’t provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes.
- Don’t provide anyone with lists or files of students enrolled in your class for any commercial purpose.
- Don’t discuss the progress of a student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student.
- Don’t provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone, other than University employees, in finding a student on campus.
- Don’t share information from student educational records (i.e. grades, GPA, number of credits) in a letter of recommendation without written consent of the student.
- Don’t throw records containing Social Security Number, student number or name, and/or grades in the garbage. These items should always be shredded.