In 1974, Congress enacted the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also referred to as the Buckley Amendment or FERPA) to guarantee matriculated students at postsecondary institutions certain rights with respect to their educational records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
A FERPA-related college education record begins for a student when he or she enrolls in a higher education institution. At a postsecondary institution, rights belong to the student in attendance, regardless of the student's age.
Students have four basic rights under FERPA, which include:
Students have the right to see everything in their "education record," except:
- Information about other students.
- Financial records of parents.
- Confidential letters of recommendation if they waived their right of access.
FERPA does not prescribe what records are created or how long they are to be kept; however, you cannot destroy a record if there is a request to inspect and review. It is important to know and understand the institution's records retention policy.
Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from the person's personal observation or knowledge do not require written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student's educational record in included in the letter of recommendation (e.g., grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which:
The public posting of grades by the student's name, social security number, or any other identifier that allows a student to be known is a violation of FERPA. This includes the posting of grades to a class website. As access to electronic communications increases, it may be tempting to send grades by e-mail. However, there is no guarantee of confidentiality when using e-mail.
Leaving personally identifiable graded papers, exams, or lab books open and unattended for students to pick up is also a violation of FERPA.
The institution may disclose records without consent if certain requirements are met, but it is not required to do so. Some examples of the exceptions to the release requirement include:
A school official with a legitimate educational interest may be granted access to confidential student information if the official needs the information to fulfill his/her professional responsibility. This includes:
There is some information about students that is not generally considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. FERPA defines this information as directory information and gives institutions discretion over the release of these items.
Each institution establishes what it considers to be directory information. Common examples include: name, address (local, home, and e-mail), telephone (local and home), academic program of study, and date of birth. Directory information cannot include: race, gender, SSN (or part of an SSN), grades, GPA, country of citizenship, or religion.
FERPA affords students certain right with respect to their educational records. This rights include:
What is the proper care of records that contain confidential or personally identifiable information about a student?
The Proper Care and Custody of Confidential Records Includes:
Educational records include any record maintained by the institution that contains information that is personally identifiable to a student (in whatever format or medium) with some narrowly defined exceptions: