Student Privacy Rights
What is FERPA?
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act passed by Congress in 1974. FERPA is designed to protect the privacy of students by limiting third party access to student education records. FERPA is designed to protect the privacy of educational records, establish rights of students to inspect their records and provide guidelines for correcting inaccurate data. FERPA applies to all students regardless of age, attending, or who previously attended. "Attending students include admitted students, continuing education students, students who audit courses, and distance education students.
Students may amend or correct their records if information is inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete. Students have the right to a hearing if the records are not corrected. If a student is dissatisfied with the results of a hearing, he or she may place a statement in the records to the effect. If a student feels that the institution has not fully honored his or her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW. Washington, DC 20202-4605.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records.
Parental and Third Party Access to Student’s Educational Record
When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution, regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student.
FERPA gives students the following rights regarding educational records:
- The right to request the amendment of the student's education record
- The right to inspect and review the student's education records
- The right to request that education records be disclosed only with student consent
- The right to file complaints for unauthorized disclosure of education records
Students have a right to know about the purpose, content, and location of information kept as a part of their education records. They also have a right to expect that information in their education records will be kept confidential unless they give permission to the College to disclose such information, or if a limited number of exceptions applies. Therefore, it is important to understand how education records are defined under FERPA.
What is Directory Information?
“Directory information [is] information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.” (FERPA Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Part 99.3). FERPA permits disclosure of directory information without consent unless the student has filed a Request for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information. GCSC considers the following information to be Directory Information.
The data defined below is considered to be Directory Information for GCSC and the ONLY INFORMATION AN AUTHORIZED GCSC EMPLOYEE MAY DISCUSS WITH PARENTS, GUARDIANS AND OTHER REQUESTORS. IF THE INFORMATION BEING REQUESTED IS NOT IDENTIFIED BELOW, THEN IT IS COVERED BY FEDERAL LAW AND MAY NOT BE DISCUSSED OR GIVEN.
QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS POLICY SHOULD BE DIRECTED TO THE ENROLLMENT SERVICES OFFICE.
- Student’s Name
- Major field of study
- Enrollment status
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees, awards, and previous schools attended
- Weight and height and photographs of members of athletic teams
GCSC Non-directory Information
This is any education record not considered to be GCSC Directory Information. Non-directory Information must NOT be released to anyone, including parents of the student, without the prior written consent of the student (form is located in the Enrollment Services office). Further, faculty and staff may access Non-directory Information only if they have a legitimate academic need to do so. Examples of non-directory information are:
- Class rosters
- Grade reports
- Academic Degree Audit
- Student schedule
- Most disciplinary records
- Class attendance
- Student ID Number
- Any other information that is not Directory Information
Blocking the Release of Directory Information
Should a student wish to block the release of directory information, the student must submit a Request to the Enrollment Services office.
If a student blocks the release of academic records, the College may not confirm or deny attendance, degree completion, or any other Directory Information. Individuals with access to the official student database will see a Confidential warning displayed on the student’s record, and will immediately know that NO information may be released about that student.
Releasing Non-directory Information
Should a student wish to release Non-directory Information, the student must complete a signed and dated Authorization for Release of Student Records and submit it to the Enrollment Services office.
What is an education record?
FERPA defines education records as records that are directly related to a student; are maintained, in whatever format or medium, by an educational institution or by a party acting for the institution; and contain information that is personally identifiable to a student.
Education records do NOT pertain to:
- Records in the sole possession of the maker (e.g. private advising notes).
- Law enforcement records created and maintained by the public safety office for law enforcement or public safety purposes.
- Employment records except where contingent upon, e.g., work-study and wages.
- Medical/psychological treatment records from a health or counseling center.
- Alumni records which are created after the student graduates or leaves the College.
- There are two classes of education records.
- Education records are divided into two classes: directory information and non-directory information. Therefore, it is important to know the type of educational record that is being considered for disclosure.
Penalties for Violation of FERPA
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the Department of Education reviews and investigates complaints of alleged violations of FERPA. If the (FPCO) Office finds that there has been a failure to comply with FERPA, it will notify the institution about the corrections that need to be made to bring the institution into compliance. The FPCO will then establish a reasonable period of time for the institution to voluntarily accomplish the specified changes. If the Secretary of Education finds that, after this reasonable period of time, an institution has failed to comply with FERPA and determines that compliance cannot be secured by any means, he or she can, among other options, direct that no federal funds (financial aid, education grants, etc.) be made available to that institution.
What is Legitimate Educational Need?
Under FERPA, a school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his/her college responsibilities. This includes such purposes as:
- Performing appropriate tasks that are specified in his/her job 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 need"?
Legitimate educational interest does not convey inherent rights to access any and all student information. The law distinguishes between educational interest, and personal or private interest; educational records are not to be accessed or used for personal reasons. Educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student's written permission.
Under FERPA, under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information:
Information may be released to the following individuals under the following circumstances:
- school officials with legitimate educational interest
- school officials at an institution where the student seeks to enroll
- parents of students who claim student as dependent for tax purposes
- health or safety emergencies that require protection of the student or others
- a court order or subpoena, after reasonable effort has been made to notify the student
- the Secretary of the Department of Education
- the Office of the Comptroller General
- the Attorney General’s Office of the United States
- state and local education authorities as part of an audit or program review
- research firms working for the educational institution
What can be discussed or casually mentioned?
GCSC has determined that data identified in the Directory Information is considered public information and can be discussed with others UNLESS a student blocks the release of Directory Information. A student must submit the request to block the release of Directory information to the Office of the Registrar every semester. For these students, no data may be discussed.
Quick Tips on What Not To Do
- Do not publish grade data which identifies a particular student or students
- Grades should never be posted in a public place
- Never link in a public manner a student name, College ID, and Social Security Number
- Never require students to write their name and ID number on a sheet which is circulated in the classroom
- Do not circulate any information with grades in a classroom setting. It is better to distribute each paper directly to each student. Also, do not allow students to thumb through a stack of graded papers in order to find their paper
- Do not discuss the academic progress of a student with the parents or other relatives of the student
- Never provide anyone with a list of students enrolled in your class
- Never provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than college employees in finding a student on campus