FERPA Information

The following addresses some frequently asked questions about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Also, see our list of special "don'ts" for faculty.

What is FERPA?

  • Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 1974
  • Also known as the Buckley Amendment
  • Protects the privacy of a student’s educational records
  • Applies to all educational agencies or institutions that receive funds under any program administered by the Secretary of Education

What are educational records?

  • Records - handwriting, print, computer, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche or e-mail
  • Contain information directly related to the student
  • Are maintained by an agency or institution or party acting in its behalf
  • KCTCS lists the following as records maintained by the colleges
    • Academic records from schools previously attended
    • Scores / results on standardized tests and interest inventories
    • Degrees awarded
    • Current academic work completed
    • Grades and other faculty evaluations
    • Applications for admissions
    • Applications and other data related to financial aid
    • Applications for employment
    • Class rolls
    • Letters of recommendation
    • Academic advisor notes
    • Attendance data
    • Biographical and identifying information
    • Medical data
    • Current student status
    • Accounts relating to fees
    • Academic offenses
    • Disciplinary offenses
    • Counseling notes

What documents does a student not have a right to see?

  • Financial information submitted by parents
  • Confidential letters and recommendations placed in student's file before January 1, 1975
  • Confidential letters, etc., associated with admissions, employment, job placement or honors to which a student has waived rights of inspection and review
  • Educational records containing information about other students such as
    • Grades
    • Test scores, etc.

What is directory or public information?

  • " [Directory information is] information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed." (1988 Final Regulations)
  • KCTCS Directory Information
    • Student's full name
    • Address
    • Telephone listings
    • Date and place of birth
    • Major field of study
    • Degrees and awards received
    • Dates of attendance
    • Most recent previous school attended
    • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
    • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Please note that class schedule and next-of-kin information are not open directory information and cannot be released to anyone at Madisonville Community College that does not have a "need to know" or to anyone outside of the College except as provided by law.
  • Directory information can never include:
    • Social security number
    • Student identification number
    • Race
    • Ethnicity
    • Nationality
    • Gender

Can directory information be released to anyone who requests it?

  • No, if the student has requested that directory information be withheld, no information can be released
    • outside of MCC except as provided by law
    • to anyone within MCC who does not have a need to know
  • Yes, if the student has not requested that directory information be withheld.

How can a student request that their information be withheld?

  • The student may request that directory information be withheld by notifying the Admissions / Records office within ten (10) calendar days from the first scheduled class of the fall/spring term. All written requests for non-disclosure will be honored by the college for one (1) academic year. Requests to withhold this information must be filed annually thereafter.

What is "legitimate educational interest"?

  • In accordance with FERPA, a school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his / her professional responsibility. This includes such purposes as:
    • performing appropriate tasks that are specified in her/his 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.

What is not "legitimate educational interest"?

  • 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. Educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student's written permission.

What about letters of recommendation?

  • Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person’s personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student’s educational record is included in the letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which
    • specifies the records that may be disclosed,
    • states the purpose of the disclosure,
    • identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
  • If this letter is kept on file by the person writing the recommendation, it would be part of the student’s education record and the student has the right to read it unless he or she has waived that right to access.
  • Sample request for a letter of recommendation

    I give permission to Prof. Smith to write a letter of recommendation to:

    Allstate Insurance
    324 Wilkins Drive
    Atlanta, GA 33011

    Prof Smith has my permission to include my gpa and grades.

    I waive (or do not waive) my right to review a copy of this letter at any time in the future.

    Signature / Date

What about disclosing student information to the media?

  • Nothing in FERPA allows an institution to discuss a student’s educational record publicly – even if a lawsuit has made the information a matter of public record. A school official may not assume that a student’s public discussion of a matter constitutes implied consent for the school official to disclose anything other than directory information in reply.
  • Additionally, university employees should follow university policy regarding the release of information to the media. The official spokesperson for the university is the Director of Public Affairs.

What rights do parents have under FERPA?

  • FERPA gives certain rights to parents regarding their children's educational records.
    • Rights transfer to the student
      • Upon reaching 18 years of age or
      • Attending any school beyond the secondary level
  • When may a parent access a student's educational records?
    • Law allows parental access if student is claimed as a dependent for Federal income tax purposes.
    • Access is granted to both the parent who claims the student as well as the parent who is not claiming the student.
  • How can a parent access student information if the student is not being claimed by either parent for Federal income tax purposes?
    • Parent can have access only if the student is willing to release information.
  • A parent may access student information but may not act on the student's behalf except in emergency situations.

When can information be released without student consent?

  • The law allows disclosure without consent to:
    • School employees who have a legitimate educational interest
    • Other schools, upon request, in which a student is intending to enroll
    • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student to determine eligibility, amount or conditions of financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of aid
    • Parents when a student over 18 is still a dependent
    • Certain government officials of the U. S. Department of Education, the Comptroller General, and and state and local educational authorities, in connection with an audit, authorized representatives of the U. S. Attorney General for law enforcement purposes or state or federally supported education programs
    • Individuals who have obtained a judicial order or subpoena
    • School officials who have a need to know concerning disciplinary action taken against a student
    • Appropriate parties who need to know in cases of health and safety emergencies when necessary to protect the health and safety of the student and / or others
    • State and local authorities, within the juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific state law
    • Alleged victim of a crime of violence the results of a disciplinary proceeding with respect to that crime
    • Parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21, information regarding any violation of university policy or state, federal or local law, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance

What are the steps that MCC must follow to be in compliance with FERPA?

  • Notify current students annually in writing of their rights under FERPA.
    • Right to seek amendment or correction of educational records
    • Right to have some control over the disclosure of information from education records except when release is permitted by law
    • Right to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office, United States Department of Education, within 180 days of alleged violation
  • Grant access by students or parents, if applicable, to education records.
    • Students and former students have the right to inspect and review their education records through established procedures.
      • Within a maximum of 45 days after written request is received.
    • Institution or agency is not required to provide a copy of the education record unless failure to do so would deny access.
      • Records cannot be destroyed if request is pending.
      • Fee can be charged unless cost prohibits access.
    • Students and former students have the right to review records of requests for disclosure of their personally identifiable information.
      • Institution needs to maintain records of requests and make them available to students.

What can happen if we fail to follow the law?

  • Lawsuit
  • Loss of Federal funding
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor under the Public Information Act
    • Confinement in the county jail not to exceed 6 months or
    • Fine not to exceed $1,000 or
    • Both

Special "dont's" for faculty

  • To avoid violations of FERPA rules, do not:
    • at any time use the entire Social Security Number of a student in a public posting of grades
    • ever link the name of a student with that student's social security number in any public manner
    • leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students
    • circulate a printed class list with student name and social security number or grades as an attendance roster
    • discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student
    • provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose
    • provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than university employees in finding a student on campus