The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), as amended, is a federal law that is administered by the Family Policy Compliance Office in the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA sets forth requirements regarding the privacy of student education records.
Who has FERPA rights at the postsecondary level?
FERPA rights belong to the student, regardless of age. Eligible students include those who are currently enrolled at Bridgewater State University or students who have previously attended BSU. FERPA does not apply to applicants who have been admitted but who have not yet attended, nor does it apply to deceased students.
What are students' rights under FERPA?
Eligible students have the right, in general, to:
- Inspect and review their records
- Seek amendment of their records
- Control the disclosure of personally identifiable information from their records
What is an "education record"?
"Education record" refers to records directly related to a student and maintained by an educational institution or by a party acting for the institution. It includes any information recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape file, film, microfilm and microfiche. Education records are those records that are:
- Directly related to a student (contains personally identifiable information about the student); and
- Maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution
Examples include transcripts; exams; papers; financial aid and account records; disability accommodation records; disciplinary records; photographs; faculty/staff email messages to, from or about a student.
What is NOT an "education record"?
The following are not considered "education records":
- Information that is not recorded – that is, personal knowledge
- Sole possession records (kept in the sole possession of the maker, used as a memory aid and not accessible or revealed to any other person)
- Law enforcement records
- Certain employment records
- Treatment records
- Alumni records
- Peer graded papers
How can a student access their education record?
Under FERPA, a school must provide an eligible student with an opportunity to inspect and review their records within 45 days following its receipt of a request. The school must provide the student with copies of the records, or make other arrangements, if a failure to do so would effectively prevent the student from obtaining access.
How can a student amend their education record?
Under FERPA, an eligible student has the right to request that inaccurate or misleading information in their record be amended. While a school is not required to amend education records in accordance with the student’s request, the school is required to consider the request. If the school decides not to amend the record in accordance with the student’s request, the school must inform the student of their right to a hearing on the matter. If, as a result of the hearing, the school still decides not to amend the record, the student has the right to insert a statement in the record setting forth their views. That statement must remain with the contested part of the student’s record for as long as the record is maintained.
While the FERPA amendment procedure may be used to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded, it may not be used to challenge a grade, an opinion or a substantive decision made by a school about a student. FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair record keeping practices.
How can a student control disclosure of their education record?
Under FERPA, a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student’s education record to a third party without the written consent of the student. However, FERPA allows colleges and universities to classify part of the education record as directory information. (See below for the identification of directory information at BSU.) Typically, schools may disclose directory information without the written consent of the student. Any student who wishes to prevent the disclosure of directory information can complete a request form and return it to the Registrar’s Office. It is important to note that with this restriction in place, BSU may not be able to verify degree or enrollment status nor publish awards received by the student. The restriction will remain in effect until the student submits a written request to have it revoked.
Additionally, there a number of exceptions that allow schools to disclose personally identifiable information from education records without consent, though they are not required to do so. Generally, exceptions to the prior written consent requirement allows disclosure:
- To school officials with a “legitimate educational interest”. School officials typically include professors; administrators; health staff; counselors; attorneys; clerical staff; trustees; members of committees and disciplinary boards; and a contractor, volunteer or other party to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions.
- To a school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll
- In connection with financial aid if the information is necessary for such purposes as to determine eligibility, amount of aid, conditions for aid, and/or enforce the terms and conditions of aid.
- To the parents of a “dependent student” as the term is defined in Section 152 of Internal Revenue Code.
- To appropriate parties, including parents of an eligible student, in connection with a health or safety emergency.
- To the parents of a student regarding the student’s violation of any federal, state or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance, if the school determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to that use or possession and the student is under 21 years of age at the time of the disclosure to the parent.
- When such information has been appropriately designated as directory information; that is, information that would generally not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
- To authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Attorney General of the United States, the U.S. Secretary of Education, and the state and local educational authorities for audit or evaluation of federal or state supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with federal legal requirements that relate to those programs.
- To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the school making the disclosure for the purposes of administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs or improving instruction.
- To comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena
- To the victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense concerning the final results of disciplinary hearing with respect to the alleged crime
- To any third party the final results of a disciplinary proceeding related to a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense if the student who is the alleged perpetrator is found to have violated the school’s rules or policies. The disclosure of the final results only includes: the name of the alleged perpetrator, the violation committed and any sanction imposed against the alleged perpetrator. The disclosure must not include the name of any other student, including a victim or witness, without the written consent of that student.
What information has Bridgewater State University classified as directory information?
Bridgewater State University has identified the following as directory information:
- College or school and major field of study
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight, height, and age of members of athletic teams
- Dates of enrollment
- Class Level (i.e. Freshmen, Sophomore etc.)
- Enrollment Status (full-time, part-time)
- Certificates, degrees and awards received, including deans list and honors
Can students authorize the university to speak to someone regarding their academic record?
Students who would like to authorize the university to speak to an authorized third-party should complete the FERPA Authorization Form. Requests must be filled out completely and clearly identify the authorized individual as well as the specific information related to the education record that the university may release. It is important to know that completion of a FERPA release form does not require the university or its employees to disclose information. Disclosure is at the sole discretion of Bridgewater State University.
Further information regarding FERPA can be found at US Department of Education Website .