What is FERPA?
FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also referred to as the Buckley Amendment) and is a federal law designed to:
- Protect the privacy of student education records.
- Establish the right of students to inspect and review their education records.
- Provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading information.
Students Have the Right to:
- Inspect and review their education records
- Seek to amend their education records when there has been a legitimate error recorded
- Have some control over the release of information from their education records
- When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending ASU, FERPA rights are transferred to the student.
- Parents may obtain directory information at the discretion of the college.
- Parents may obtain non-directory information with a signed consent from their child.
How does FERPA affect ASU faculty/staff?
1. All ASU faculty and staff members are considered university officials under FERPA when in performance of the duties of their position as these relate to students. Faculty and staff members routinely handle education records as part of their responsibilities. They are expected to understand their legal obligations under FERPA and to ensure that education records are not used for inappropriate purposes or disclosed in an unauthorized manner. Further information on the legal obligations of faculty and staff can be found on the United States Department of Education's website at http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferparegs.pdf.
2. FERPA is enforced by the United States Department of Education, which has the authority to audit institutions of higher education for FERPA compliance. FERPA violations may result in the loss of federal funding for the University. At present, over 90% of ASU students rely on federal financial aid.
3. Any breach of confidentiality by a faculty or staff member in violation of FERPA could lead to the imposition of disciplinary sanctions under University human resource policies.
1. The term "education record" as used in FERPA is very inclusively defined. An education record is any record, file, document, or other material that (i) contains information directly related to a student, and (ii) is maintained by a faculty or staff member. The term encompasses records kept in any format - hard copy, electronic, handwritten, or other. There are only five exceptions recognized in the law. The term "education record" does not include:
- Personal notes that are not shown to anybody else;
- Police records;
- Employment records;
- Records that contain only information about an individual after he or she is no longer a student, for example, records maintained by the Office of Alumni Relations about the volunteer or gift-giving activities of ASU alumni.
You, as the custodian of an education record, cannot disclose the record to a third party unless either (i) the student who is the subject of the record consents in writing to the disclosure, or (ii) disclosure is warranted without consent under one of FERPA's exceptions to the written-consent requirement.
You are allowed to disclose an education record if the student who is the subject of the record consents in writing. The student's written consent must contain three elements:
- It must specify the records to be released, i.e. grades, notes based on observations, general assessment of performance of student in a class or in a field-based experience;
- It must identify the party or class of parties to whom the records should be released, i.e. prospective employer, non-ASU school official, scholarship committee members, etc.; and
- It must indicate the reason for the release, i.e. as part of an application for employment, admission to a graduate program, application for a scholarship/grant, etc.
Disclosure without consent:
FERPA enumerates specific circumstances under which disclosure may be made, but is not required to be made, without consent. The most important are:
- To other University officials and offices with "legitimate educational interests." Adams State University determines on a case-by-case basis whether a school official has a legitimate educational interest in the disclosure of personally identifiable information from an education record, based on application of the following considerations:
- Whether the information to be disclosed is necessary for that official to perform an appropriate task that comes within or is consistent with the official's job duties or the duties spelled out in the official's contract;
- Whether the information is to be used for official University business and not for purposes extraneous to the official's job duties or the duties spelled out in the official's contract;
- Whether the information is relevant to a task, determination, proceeding, or other matter relating to the student; and
- Whether the information is to be used in a manner consistent with the purpose or purposes for which the education record is maintained.
When in doubt, confer with the Registrar's Office before determining whether it is appropriate for you to disclose an education record to another University official under the "legitimate educational interests" exception to the written consent requirement.
In connection with an application for, or receipt of, financial aid.
- To the parent of a "dependent student" (as the term in quotation marks is defined in the Internal Revenue Code). Although FERPA allows for this release, ASU policy is such that whenever possible, we communicate directly with the student.
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. Even if the subpoena is lawfully issued, the University is still not allowed to comply until it has made a reasonable effort to notify the student in advance of compliance. If you are served with a subpoena or court order requiring production of an education record, you should promptly forward the request, including any attachments to the subpoena, to the Office of the Registrar. You should never produce any documents unless you are instructed to do so by the Office of the Registrar, Student Affairs or Academic Affairs.
- To cope with a health or safety emergency, if disclosure is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student who is the subject of the education record. When in doubt, confer with the Registrar's Office before determining whether it is appropriate for you to disclose an education record under the "health or safety emergency" exception to the written consent
While FERPA allows for the release of certain records, the following are definitely not permitted:
- Sharing information about students with third parties, parents or others unless the student has provided written consent specifying what information you may share, i.e. letters of recommendation.
- Sharing Directory Information without written consent from a student who has a restriction. When an inquiry is made and the student has such a restriction, our response should simply be, "I have no information on this person." We cannot even acknowledge that the student is in attendance.
- E-mailing students any confidential information including grades. Most students have access to this information via their student portal. Those who do not should request unofficial transcripts or speak to the Registrar's Office directly. Posting confidential information to other websites, e-mail addresses, blogs, etc. is not permitted.
- Releasing a student's class schedule. If there is an emergency in which an individual needs to locate a student, refer the individual to the Office of Student Affairs or the Office of the Registrar.
- Asking students in a class to hand back graded work to other students.
- Leaving graded student work in a public area.
- Sharing or discussing education records with your colleagues or co-workers unless a legitimate education need exists.
- Posting grades in a manner that easily identifies students.
It is ASU policy NOT to release information to parents without written consent.