What Is FERPA?
FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment) passed by Congress in 1974 that grants specific rights to students.
What rights do students have under FERPA?
- The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of their request
- The right to request an amendment to their education records
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in their education records
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures to comply with FERPA.
What are education records?
Any record directly related to a student and maintained by the university for use in the educational process is considered a student educational record, including:
- Personal information
- Enrollment records
Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, email, print, etc.) that is in the possession of any school official. This includes transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled. A student has the right of access to these records.
Outsourcing and Access to Education Records
Institutions are allowed to disclose education records without the student’s consent to contractors, volunteers, and other non-employees performing institutional services and functions.
“Legitimate Educational Interest”
A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
What are not education records?
- sole possession records or private notes held by school officials that are not accessible or released to other personnel,
- law enforcement or campus security records that are solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the law enforcement unit,
- records relating solely to an individual’s employment by the institution that are not available for any other purpose,
- records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment,
- records of an institution that contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student, i.e., alumni records,
- grades on peer-graded papers that have not been collected and recorded.
FERPA and Parents’ Access to their student’s Education Records
- When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution at any age, FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student.
- Parents may obtain non-directory information (grades, GPA, etc.) at the discretion of the institution if the student is a dependent per federal tax law.
- Parents may also have access to nondirectory information by obtaining a signed consent from their child.
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 who is the subject of the recommendation. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student’s education record is included in a 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, and
- identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
Since the letter of recommendation would be part of the student’s education record, the student has the right to read it – unless he/she has waived that right of access.
“Health and Safety” Exception
Institutions may take into consideration circumstances pertaining to the health and safety of a student or other individuals to disclose information from education records without a student’s consent. If the institution determines there is “articulable and significant threat” to the health and safety of the student or others, information from education records can be released “to any person whose knowledge of the situation is necessary to protect” the health and safety of the student or other individuals.
Public Posting of Grades
The public posting of grades, either by the student’s name, institutional student identification number, or social security number is a violation of FERPA. Using an assigned random number that only the student and instructor know would be an appropriate way to post grades. Even then, the order of posting should not be alphabetic.
What is directory information?
Institutions may disclose the following information on a student without violating FERPA if the student has not restricted their information.
- e-mail address
- address (local & home)
- telephone number (local & home)
- college/school and curriculum
- enrollment status and credit hour load
- dates of attendance
- receipt or non-receipt of a degree
- academic awards received (dean’s list, honors students)
- participation in officially recognized activities
- sports photograph
- position, weight, and height of athletes
If a student does not want their name/address/phone number to appear in the Student and Staff Telephone Directory, they must contact the Office of the Registrar at the Hammond campus in Room 130, Lawshe Hall, or at the Westville campus in Room 40, Schwarz Hall, prior to the end of the first week of the semester.
Students may request in person, with photo identification, at the Office of the Registrar that all of their directory information be restricted. For these students, it is important to note that no information is released without the students’ written consent. If a student elects to restrict all information, the Office of the Registrar will give the following response to all inquiries: “We have no information on this individual.”
Indiana SSN Law
Internal use of SSN information within the Purdue system for the purpose of conducting normal business is still permitted under that law. However, it is important to remember that Purdue data handling guidelines address the usage and methods of exchanging sensitive and restricted data, in addition to just SSN information. These guidelines can be found at Purdue University’s Secure Data Restrictions.
Additional FERPA Information
Call (765) 494-8219 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for FERPA assistance.
Office of the Registrar
Hovde Hall of Administration
610 Purdue Mall
West Lafayette, IN 47907-2040
Phone: (765) 494-8581
Fax: (765) 494-0570