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 student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."
FERPA requires that a student's education records be:
- Disclosed only to persons who meet the strict definition of a school official who has a legitimate educational interest in the records (or others explicitly granted access under the law).
- Made available within 15 working days of the student's written request for inspection and review.
Definition of a school official:
- A school official is defined as person employed by the college or college district in an administrative, supervisory, research, or support staff position.
- An official committee member (i.e., Matriculation Committee, Basic Skills Committee) or another individual assigned by an administrator or supervisor to assist in an official task.
- An outside contractor (i.e., health or medical professional, district counsel/attorney, auditor) acting as an agent for the college.
A College official has a legal right to know if a person defined as having a legitimate educational interest is:
- Performing a task that is specified in his/her position or related to student discipline.
- Providing college services or benefits related to a student, or maintaining the safety and security on campus.
Example of a legitimate educational interest: A counselor who needs to review a student's education records to determine what courses have been or need to be completed. This task is related to student academic advising. The counselor is authorized to view education records that are relevant to the task at hand.
Reference for Faculty
- Private notes of a faculty/staff member concerning a student and intended for the faculty/staff member's own use are not part of the student's educational record, provided they are kept separate from the student's educational records. Only those individual student records that are necessary to fulfill professional responsibilities should be kept.
- Requests for information from the educational record custodian must not be made without a legitimate educational interest and the appropriate authority to do so.
- Student scores or grades may not be displayed publicly in association with names, social security numbers or other personal identifiers. Some other code known only to the instructor and the individual student may be used to post grades/scores.
- All papers or lab reports containing student names and grades should be secured. Students should not have access to the scores and grades of others in the class.
- Factual information regarding grades and performance in an educational record may be amended when the student is able to provide valid documentation that information is inaccurate or misleading. See College Catalog
- Student educational record information is not to be shared, including grades or grade point averages, with other faculty or staff members of the College unless their official responsibilities identify their "legitimate educational interest" in that information for that student.
- Information from student educational records, including grades, grade point averages, and letters of recommendation should not be shared by phone or correspondence with parents or other parties outside the institution, without written permission from the student.
- Information from medical, psychiatric, or psychological reports; records from law enforcement officials on or off the campus; or notes of a professional or staff person which are intended for that individual alone are not to be included in a student's educational records or made available to him/her, or to a third party.
- FERPA enforcement may include sanctions as severe as the withholding of federal funding. Civil litigation against individuals for alleged FERPA violations is also possible.