The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)

What is The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA)?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.

Who is protected under FERPA?

Students who are currently enrolled in higher education institutions or formerly enrolled regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency are protected under FERPA. Parents of students termed “dependent” for income tax purposes may have access to the student’s educational records. Deceased students have rights under FERPA as long as they were formerly enrolled. Students who have applied but have not attended an institution do not.

What are educational records?

With certain exceptions, a student has rights of access to those records which are directly related to him/her and which are maintained by an educational institution or party authorized to keep records for the institution. “Educational Records” include any records in the possession of an employee of the institution which are shared with or accessible to another individual.

FERPA contains no requirement that certain records be kept at all. This is a matter of institutional policy. The records may be handwritten or in the form of print, magnetic tape, film or some other medium. FERPA coverage includes records, files, documents, and data directly related to students. This includes transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.

 What is not included in an educational record?

  • sole possession records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel
  • law enforcement or campus security records which are solely for law enforcement purposes
  • records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution (unless contingent upon attendance)
  • records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment
  • records of an institution which contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student at that institution (i.e., alumni records)

When is the student’s consent not required to disclose information?

The 13 exceptions are:

  • to school officials (defined in policy)
  • to schools in which a student seeks to enroll
  • to Federal, State and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs in connection with financial aid
  • to state and local authorities pursuant to a State law adopted before Nov. 1974 requiring the disclosure
  • to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions
  • to accrediting organizations
  • to parents of a dependent student¬†
  • to comply with judicial order or subpoena
  • health or safety emergency
  • directory information to the student
  • results of disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence

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