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Faculty Resources - FERPA
Federal Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Also known as the Buckley Amendment, FERPA was enacted in 1974 to give currently or formerly enrolled students certain rights with respect to their education records. As a federal law, it affords students the right to (1) inspect and review their education records; (2) request the amendment of inaccurate or misleading records; (3) consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education record; and (4) file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education (Family Policy Compliance Office) concerning alleged failures by the institution to comply with this law. The Act applies to all institutions that are the recipients of federal funding:
Educational agencies and institutions must produce an annual notification to be in compliance with the Act.
Under FERPA, each institution has the ability to determine what they believe to be personally identifiable information.
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO), U.S. DOE, monitors educational agency and institutional compliance. Students have the right to file complaints with FPCO alleging failure by a particular institution to comply with requirements of the Act.
Only students who are currently enrolled or formerly enrolled in these institutions are given rights under FERPA.
Documents can be removed from an education record before the student is allowed to view it. These documents include (1) any information that pertains to another student; (2) financial records of the students parents; and (3) some confidential letters and statements of recommendation.
Common Scenarios from Teaching Faculty
Posting Grades. It is inadvisable to post grades in any form. If you feel that posting grades is essential to the pedagogical design of your course, please follow these guidelines:
Do not post grades by Student ID (social security number) or any other protected identifier or discernible code.
If you post grades, secure individual student specific permission in writing. Post grades for a limited and specified time frame only.
Returning Student Work. It is inadvisable to put student work in a general space for collection. Student grades on individual assignments or courses are protected and can be disclosed only by the student. Some faculty are accustomed to placing student work in an envelope or box for students to retrieve. If this means that one student could have access to another student's grades, the practice should be revised. Departments should work with faculty teaching large enrolled classes to accommodate the need to distribute work efficiently and the absolute need to comply with FERPA.
Disposal of Student Records. It is advisable to
shred, rather than to simply discard, any documents that
link student name with any other non-disclosable information
(e.g. Student ID).
Communication with Students. It is inadvisable to disclose any confidential information to students via telephone (e.g. grades, advising PIN). Email may be considered protected, since it operates with a unique-user.