FERPA

What is FERPA?

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.

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Can a student see everything in their educational record?

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.

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A student asked me to write a letter of recommendation for them. What information can I include?

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:

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What do I need to know with regard to the distribution of grades and graded materials?

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.

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