Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as FERPA,
is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education
records. Students have specific, protected rights regarding the
release of such records and FERPA requires that institutions adhere
strictly to these guidelines. Therefore, it is imperative that
the faculty and staff have a working knowledge of FERPA guidelines
before releasing educational records.
students the following rights regarding educational records:
- The right to demand educational
records be disclosed only with student consent;
- The right to amend educational
- The right to file complaints against
the school for disclosing educational records in violation of
have a right to know about the purpose, content, and location
of information kept as a part of their educational records. They
also have a right to expect that information in their educational
records will be kept confidential unless they give permission
to the school to disclose such information. Therefore, it is important
to understand how educational records are defined under FERPA.
Educational records are defined by FERPA as:
that directly relate to a student and that are maintained by
an educational agency or institution or by a party acting
for the agency or institution.
records are directly related to the student and are either maintained
by the school or by a party or organization acting on behalf of
the school. Such records may include:
Written documents; (including student
Microfilm and microfiche;
Video or audio tapes or CDs;
that contains personally identifiable information that is directly
related to the student is an educational record under FERPA. This
information can also include records kept by the school in the
form of student files, student system databases kept in storage
devices such as servers, or recordings or broadcasts which may
include student projects.
Not Considered As Educational Records
items are not considered educational records under FERPA:
Private notes of individual staff
or faculty; (NOT kept in student advising folders)
Campus police records;
Statistical data compilations that
contain no mention of personally identifiable information about
any specific student.
data compilation, and administrative records kept exclusively
by the maker of the records that are not accessible
or revealed to anyone else are not considered educational
records and, therefore, fall outside of the FERPA disclosure guidelines. However,
these records may be protected under other state or federal laws
such as the doctor/patient privilege. As an attorney, I recommend
that you check to make sure that you fully comply with these disclosure
guidelines before disseminating any of this information .
Types of Educational Records
There are two types of educational
records as defined under FERPA. Each type of educational record
is afforded different disclosure protections. Therefore, it is
important for faculty and staff to know the type of educational
record that is being considered for disclosure.
in a student's educational record is defined as directory information
under FERPA. Under a strict reading of FERPA, the school may disclose
this type of information without the written consent of the student.
However, the student can exercise the option to restrict the release
of directory information by submitting a formal request to the
school to limit disclosure. Directory information may include:
Though it is
not specifically required by FERPA, institutions should always
disclose to the student that such information is considered by
the school to be directory information and, as such, may be disclosed
to a third party upon request. institutions should err on the
side of caution and request, in writing, that the student allow
the school to disclose directory information to third parties.
information is any educational record not considered directory
information. Non-directory information must not be released to
anyone, including parents of the student, without the prior written
consent of the student. Further, faculty and staff can access
non-directory information only if they have a legitimate academic
need to do so. Non-directory information may include:
Social security numbers;
Student identification number;
Race, ethnicity, and/or nationality;
Transcripts; grade reports
are non-directory information and, therefore, are protected educational
records under FERPA. Students have a right to privacy regarding
transcripts held by the school where third parties seek transcript
copies. institutions should require that students first submit
a written request to have transcripts sent to any third party
as the privilege of privacy of this information is held by the
student under FERPA. As an attorney, I would advise that schools
should never fax transcripts because this process cannot guarantee
a completely secure transmission of the student's grades to third
a student's prior written consent is always required before institutions
can legitimately disclose non-directory information. institutions
may tailor a consent form to meet their unique academic needs.
However, prior written consent must include the following elements:
Specify the records to be disclosed;
State the purpose of the disclosure;
Identify the party or class of parties
to whom the disclosure is to be made;
The signature of the student whose
record is to be disclosed;
The signature of the custodian of
the educational record.
consent is not required when disclosure is made directly to the
student or to other school officials within the same institution
where there is a legitimate educational interest. A legitimate
educational interest may include enrollment or transfer matters,
financial aid issues, or information requested by regional accrediting
Institutions do not
need prior written consent to disclose non-directory information
where the health and safety of the student is at issue, when complying
with a judicial order or subpoena, or where, as a result of a
crime of violence, a disciplinary hearing was conducted by the
school, a final decision was recorded, and the alleged victim
seeks disclosure. In order for institutions to be able
to disseminate non-directory information in these instances
FERPA requires that institutions annually publish the
policies and procedures that the institutions will follow
in order to meet FERPA guidelines.
FERPA has strict guidelines regarding disclosing the educational
records of dependent students. Though FERPA allows such disclosure,
the act mandates that the institution first publish clearly delineated
policies and procedures for the disclosure of these records. The
institution must publish these guidelines annually in a format
that is easily accessible to interested parties. As an attorney,
I would recommend that both the dependent student and parents
sign written disclosure agreements stating, at minimum, the following:
- The dependent student understands and allows parental access to
these educational records;
- The dependent student and his/her parents have been given
a copy of the institution's policies and procedures for the
disclosure of students' records.
Most institutions charge their registrar's office with the
responsibility to determine how their institutions will comply
with FERPA disclosure requirements. Registrars commonly work
with legal council in fashioning and publishing these guidelines. As
advisors, it is advisable to check with your registrar's office
if you have any questions or concerns before disclosing any student
information to third parties.
Education and Privacy Act was enacted by Congress to protect the
privacy of student educational records. This privacy right is
a right vested in the student. Generally:
must have written permission from the student in order to release
any information from a student's educational record.
Institutions may disclose directory
information in the student's educational record without the
It is good policy for the institution
to notify the student about such disclosure and to seek the
written permission of the student to allow disclosure of any
educational records including directory information.
Institutions should give the student
ample opportunity to submit a written request that the school
refrain from disclosing directory information about them.
Institutions must not disclose non-directory
information about students without their written consent except
in very limited circumstances.
institutions should notify students
about their rights under FERPA through annual publications.
When in doubt, it is always advisable
to err on the side of caution and to not release student educational
records without first fully notifying the student about the
the school should always seek a written consent from the student
before disseminating educational records to third parties.
Note: An new interpretation of FERPA
as it applies to mental health and campus safety was issued by
the US Department of Education in December, 2008. The following
articles address this topic:
Register, (Thursday, July 26, 2001). 34 CFR Part 99, Part V, Family
Education Rights and Privacy, Final Rule. Retrieved
October 17, 2004 from http://asja.tamu.edu/ferpa.htm
of Family Policy Compliance, Family Education Rights and Privacy
Act (FERPA). Retrieved October 17, 2004 from http://www.ed.gov/print/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html
Clifford A. (2004). FERPA: What You Can and Can't Disclose,
An LRP Publications Audio Conference.
of Connecticut, Office of the Registrar, Guidelines for Faculty
Relating to Educational Records. Retrieved October 16, 2004 from
of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Office of Admissions and Records
(OAR), FERPA Tutorial. Retrieved October 15, 2004 from
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