WHAT IS FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law (20 U.S.C. § 1232g) that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to any school that receives funding through the U.S. Department of Education. FERPA affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include access to student education records, inspection of education records, disclosure of education records only with consent (except in certain circumstances), and amendment of records. Institutions are required to adhere strictly to FERPA guidelines.
Students have the right to expect that the information contained in their education records will be kept confidential unless they give permission to the school to disclose such information. Students also have the right to know the content, purpose, and location of information contained in their education records.
WHO IS PROTECTED UNDER FERPA?
Students who are or have been in attendance in higher education institutions regardless of their age or dependency status are covered under FERPA. However, FEPRA does not include a person who applied for admission but never attended the university.
WHAT IS AN EDUCATION RECORD?
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are maintained by an educational agency or institution and which contain information directly related to the student. At American University, education records include:
- Academic Records: Permanent record of academic performance (e.g., transcript, including supporting documents) maintained by the Office of the University Registrar, the WCL Registrar, academic advisor, dean’s office, and Provost’s Office; files of academic progress maintained by the individual school/college academic office and Provost’s Office; admission files of students; Career Center files.
- Non-Academic Records: Files related to Financial Aid, Housing and Dining Programs, International Student and Scholar Services, Student Accounts, and the Library; student discipline files.
WHAT IS NOT CONSIDERED AN EDUCATION RECORD?
The following items are NOT considered education records under FERPA:
- Private notes of educational personnel used for memory aid purposes, which are not accessible to other personnel;
- Campus police records;
- Medical treatment records created and maintained by health professionals;
- Records relating to employment by the institution;
- Records which only contain information about an individual obtained after the person is no longer a student at the institution (e.g., alumni records);
- Statistical data compilations that contain no mention of personally identifiable information; and
- Directory Information.
Although these records are not covered under FERPA, they may be protected under other state of federal laws (doctor/patient privilege, etc.).
CAN A SCHOOL DISCLOSE EDUCATION RECORDS TO A THIRD PARTY?
Yes, provided that the student provides written consent or there is a FERPA exception.
The university may disclose student education records with the prior written consent of the student. A student may authorize access to third parties to review the student’s education record by completing a written and dated authorization form which specifies the information to be released, the reasons for the release, and to whom the information is to be released.
FERPA also allows schools the right to disclose education records without a student’s consent under the following conditions (34 C.F.R. § 99.31):
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring;
- Parents of a dependant student, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a 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;
- Victims of crimes of violence or non-forcible sex offenses concerning the results of disciplinary proceedings about those incidents;
- Appropriate parties as permitted by the university’s Parental Notification of Disciplinary Violations Involving the Use or Possession of Alcohol or a Controlled Substance; and
- To appropriate parties in other circumstances as required by law.
WHERE CAN I GO FOR MORE INFORMATION?