Protecting Student Records

FERPA Book

We have a legal and ethical responsibility to maintain the privacy and confidentiality of student education records. A federal law known as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also called FERPA, protects these records, which include grades, transcripts, class schedules, Social Security numbers or national identity numbers, account balances, or any other information that can be connected to an identifiable student. 

Students have several rights under FERPA. They must be notified of
 their rights, including the right to review their education records and
 seek amendments to them. They have the right to prevent unauthorized disclosure of their records and they have a right to complain to the U.S. Department of Education about a FERPA violation. They can also waive their rights to these clauses in writing. 

If you collect student education records online and directly from students, make sure the transmissions are automated. Caution students against transmitting sensitive data, such as account numbers, via email or in response to an unsolicited email or pop-up message. When it comes to discussing student records, do not share anything with another faculty or staff member unless a legitimate educational interest exists and it applies to official job responsibilities. For example, a legitimate interest includes helping a student with financial aid or academic advising. Curiosity and personal interest are not legitimate reasons. 

When it comes to disclosing student records, once a student is 18 years or older, or once they enroll in post-secondary education, parents’ rights to education records transfer to the student. In most cases, you may not disclose student education records to a parent, guardian, or spouse of a student. It is often best to refer these individuals to the student for this information. Students, however, may provide written or electronic authorization for disclosure of their education records to a designee. If you receive a request to disclose information but do not have authorization from the student, refer the request to your supervisor or the office of student accounts. Even when there may be an exception, such as parents demonstrating a student is a dependent for income tax purposes, do not disclose without prior approval. 

FERPA does allow schools to release student information without student consent under the following conditions: 

• School officials with a legitimate educational interest


• Schools to which a student is transferring 

•   Specified officials for audit, evaluation, enforcement, or compliance purposes 


•   In connection with a student’s financial aid, health, and safety emergencies 


•   Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school 


•   Accrediting organizations 


•   Judicial orders or subpoenas 


•   State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to state law 


Directory information may also be disclosed without student consent, unless the student has requested confidentiality for some or all of their directory information. Directory information can include a student’s name, email address, honors and degrees, and dates of attendance. Information that is NOT directory information includes race, gender, grades, citizenship, or religion. Check with your supervisor if you are not sure what our school defines as directory information. 

Finally, immediately report any lost, stolen, or mishandled student education records. If you ever have a question or concern about student education records, ask your supervisor or contact the office of student records. 

Student Records