What is considered a "legitimate educational interest"?

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:

  • Performing appropriate tasks that are specified in his/her position description or by a contract agreement.
  • Performing a task related to a student's education.
  • Performing a task related to the discipline of a student.
  • Providing services for the student or the student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.

Legitimate educational interest does not convey inherent rights to any and all student information. The law discriminates between educational interest and personal or private interest; determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. Furthermore, educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student's written permission.

School officials have access to student information only for legitimate use in the completion of their responsibilities as university employees. Need to know is the basic principle - not curiosity.

All University of Northern Iowa employees with access to student-related data must understand the need for maintaining the confidentiality of student records under federal law and University policy. School officials have a legal and ethical responsibility to safeguard confidential student information in their possession.

For more information related to FERPA, please go to FERPA Information and Training under the Faculty and Staff tab or go to Notification of Rights Under FERPA under the Students tab.

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