PROTECT OUR STUDENTS | PROTECT OURSELVES
To be allowed access to student records, you must carefully review the material presented. Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility whether you are faculty, staff or a student.
Because it's the right thing to do.
Because the federal government requires us to do so.
This information is designed to give you a base level of knowledge of the rules governing the release of student information.
What is FERPA?
FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment). Passed by Congress in 1974, the Act grants four specific rights to the adult student:
- the right to see the information that the institution is keeping on the student
- the right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record
- the right to consent to disclosure of his/her records
- the right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington
What is a Student Educational Record?
Just about any information provided by a student to the university for use in the educational process is considered a student educational record:
- personal information
- photograph and video
- enrollment records
The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. Student educational records may be:
- a document in the registrar's office
- a computer printout in your office
- a class list on your desktop
- a computer display screen
- notes you have taken during an advisement session
What are the Basic Rules?
Student educational records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.
As a faculty or staff member, you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession.
Some information is considered public (sometimes called "Directory Information"). This info can be released without the student's written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this info confidential as well. Directory Information is: name, address, phone, photograph and video, dates of attendance, degrees received, major program, height, and weight of athletes.
You have access to information only for legitimate use in completion of your responsibilities as a university employee. Legitimate Educational Interest is the basic principle.
If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you talk to the office responsible for student records. Call Carla Kaiser, Registrar, at Student Records, 803.738.7610, or refer the request to that office.
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
- never 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 written consent of the student. Use the FERPA release form
- 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
Examples to Understand FERPA
- If a student's parent calls asking how a student is doing in a class, you CANNOT give out that information. Even though the person may be a parent you must assume that the student is an adult who is entitled to privacy, even from parents. You cannot give out that grade or any other personal information. Parents may assert their rights to the records if the student is dependent according to the tax code. Forward these requests to the Registrar.
- You receive a call from a recruiting firm asking for names and addresses of students with a GPA of 3.0 or better. They say they have good job information for these students. Can you help these students get jobs by giving out this information? NO! While we all want to help students to get good jobs that request should be sent to the Student Employment Services Office. Do not give out student records to anyone outside the College without prior written consent of that student.
- A person comes up to you with a letter containing a signature that gives consent to the release of the transcript of a student. Do you give the transcript to them? NO! In almost all cases, unless it is your job function, do not give out any records to a third party. You should refer their request to the Records Office (or any office charged with this duty).
- You receive a phone call from the local police department indicating that they are trying to determine whether a particular student was in attendance on a specific day. Since they are in the middle of an investigation are you allowed to give them this information? NO! There must be a subpoena presented to you to access this information. If pressured to respond to the subpoena immediately, FERPA requires notification of the student, unless it is specially stated on the subpoena that the student must not be notified. There must be prior written consent or a legally binding subpoena. SHOULD YOU BE SERVED WITH A SUBPOENA, CONTACT COLLEGE LEGAL SERVICES IMMEDIATELY.
- You get a frantic phone call from an individual who says that he is a student's father and must get in touch with her immediately because of a family emergency. Can you tell him when and where her next class is today? NO! For the safety of the student, you cannot tell another person where a student is at any time. When this situation arises follow prescribed College procedures.
- Is it wrong for professors to leave exams, papers, etc. outside their office for students to pick up? YES! That is a violation of the privacy rule because it is inappropriate for students to have access to other students' information. You cannot leave personally identifiable materials in a public place.
- An unauthorized person retrieves information from a computer screen that was left unattended. Under FERPA, is the institution responsible? YES! Information on a computer screen should be treated the same as printed reports. The medium in which the information is held is unimportant. No information should be left accessible or unattended, including computer displays.
FERPA Tutorial Completion Form
After reviewing this information, all faculty and staff are required to complete the college's FERPA Completion Form. By submitting the form, you are officially stating that you have reviewed and understand all of the information contained on this page.