The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records.
Generally, the law provides that, with some exceptions, no information, applications, forms, letters, records, transcripts, etc. may be released, whether orally or in writing, without prior written consent, dated and signed by the student, specifying the records to be released, the reasons for release and to whom the records are to be released.
What are education records?
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.
What is directory information?
Directory information is information contained in the student record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Directory information may be disclosed without prior written consent and includes:
- Student name
- Local and permanent mailing address
- Major and minor fields of study
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Team photographs
- Dates of attendance
- Enrollment status
- Degree candidate
- Awards and honors received, type of award/honor
- Previous educational agency or institutions
Below is FERPA information as it pertains to FACULTY and STAFF.
Student Information For Release
Directory information may be released without the student’s written consent provided the student has not submitted a Directory Restriction Form to the Office of the Registrar. The records of students who have requested nondisclosure of directory information are tagged in Banner with a “Confidential” warning.
Personally identifiable information that is not categorized as directory information may be released without the student’s written consent to school officials whom the institution has determined to have a “legitimate educational interest,” or to others as specified by law (see Access to Student Records section below). Such information may not, however, be released to other individuals, including the student’s parent(s), without a signed, written release from the student. The release should state the information to be released and the person to whom it may be released.
Directory Restriction Request
Under FERPA, students have the right to request that the institution not disclose directory information. To request nondisclosure, students must complete a Directory Restriction Form in the Office of the Registrar. The student’s record will be tagged to indicate nondisclosure is in effect, and will remain that way until the student withdraws the request. Students interested in restricting the release of directory information should be referred to the Office of the Registrar in Room 200 of the Hardeman Student Services Center.
Obligation to Release Directory Information
An institution is not obligated to release directory information to anyone. FERPA only says that an institution MAY release information, but there is no obligation to do so. When in doubt, do not release information.
Access to Student Records
In accordance with FERPA, a school official has a “legitimate educational interest” if the official requires access to a student record to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. This includes such purposes as:
- 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
- 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, and determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. Educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student’s written permission.
Faculty members are normally considered “school officials,” but a faculty member will have to demonstrate “legitimate educational interest” (advising students, retention study, etc.) to receive access to student records beyond their class and grade rosters. Faculty members do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access.
Parents Requesting Information
In general, you must not discuss a student with his or her parent, and should advise the parent that the student is responsible for providing appropriate information to the parent(s). Parents, spouses and other relations do not have a right to information contained in a student’s record. This information is protected under FERPA, and access will not be granted unless the student has a FERPA/Proxy on record. If a student has provided access to a parent, you can view proxy records and identifying information in GPAPRXY or in Self-Service under the “Student Information Menu.”
The public posting of grades is a violation of FERPA. Students’ scores or grades should never be displayed publicly. Even with names obscured, numeric student identifiers are considered personally identifiable information and must not be used.
Returning Graded Papers and Assignments
Distributing graded work in a way that exposes the student’s identity (such as allowing students to sort through papers to retrieve their own work) or leaving personally identifiable graded papers unattended is a violation of FERPA.
Class Rosters and Grade Sheets
These and other reports should be handled in a confidential manner, and the information contained on them should not be re-disclosed to third parties.
The student records of student athletes are covered by FERPA. Without a signed consent form, personally identifiable information may not be disclosed from the student records of student athletes.
Grades, transcripts, counseling reports or degree audits distributed for student academic advising should not be placed in plain view on desks or in open mailboxes in public places.
Letters of Recommendation
Written permission from a student is required for a letter of recommendation if any information included in the recommendation is part of a student’s record (grades, GPA and other non-directory information).
Crisis Situations or Emergencies
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an educational institution may release that information if it determines that the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. In the case of an emergency, contact the University Police at 325-942-2071.
- Access to Banner does not authorize unrestricted use of the information, nor does it justify viewing information for the sake of curiosity.
- Confidential information should not be left displayed on an unattended computer screen.
- Paper records containing personally identifiable information should be shredded according to the university’s document retention schedule when they are no longer needed. You should never throw any personally identifiable documents in the trash.
- Student schedules or lists of students enrolled in classes should not be provided to anyone who does not have a legitimate educational interest in the information.
Important Note: The above information is intended to give general information about the Buckley Amendment and to acquaint faculty and staff with some of the privacy issues surrounding student records. It is not intended as, nor is it a substitute for, legal advice on any particular issue.