Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, as amended, is a federal law that can be summarized by the following two points:
Access. A student is permitted certain rights regarding his/her education records:
- Right to inspect and review his/her educational records;
- Right to request an amendment to the records if he/she believes there is an inaccuracy;
- Right to restrict the release of the student's Directory Information from public access;
- Right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if he/she feels UW-Platteville has failed to follow FERPA guidelines.
Confidentiality. School officials must protect the privacy of education records and shall not disclose personally identifiable information about a student or permit inspection of the student's records without his/her written consent unless such action is permitted by the act.
When may information be disclosed?
FERPA permits two exceptions regarding the release of student information without obtaining written consent from students.
Directory Information. FERPA allows UW-Platteville to share a student's "directory information" unless the student has officially requested to restrict its release (such restrictions are noted in PASS by a light-blue window shade icon). UW-Platteville directory information items include only the following:
- Telephone listing
- University assigned e-mail address (firstname.lastname@example.org)
- Major Field of Study
- College enrolled
- Dates of attendance
- Part-time/Full-time status
- Term units (credits) enrolled
- Previous institution attended
- Anticipated degrees and dates
- Degrees earned
- Honors and awards
- Participation in officially recognized sports and activities
- Physical factors (weight and height) of members of athletic teams
A student who wants to restrict the release of his/her directory information must complete and file the "Privacy Hold" form in the Registrar's office. The privacy restriction will remain in effect unless the student submits written notification to the Registrar's office to have it removed.
Non-directory information and restricted directory information must NOT be released without the student's written, signed, and dated consent. Such consent must specify and include the following three items: 1) the records to be released; 2) the party or class of parties to whom the records should be released; and 3) the reason or purpose for the release of the records.
UW-Platteville school officials who have a legitimate educational interest. FERPA allows a UW-Platteville school official to share a student's education record information (directory information and non-directory information), without the student's written consent, with other UW-Platteville school officials who have a legitimate educational interest.
Other than these two exceptions, always error on the side of caution and do not disclose or share any personally identifiable information about a student. If there are any questions regarding FERPA, please call the Registrar's office at 608.342.1321 or visit the office located on the first floor of Brigham Hall
Definition of Terms
- Student - A person who is or was enrolled in a UW-Platteville course (including for-credit and/or non-credit workshops and courses). Coverage under FERPA begins with the first date of attendance. It does not apply to applicants.
- Education Records - The records directly related to a student and maintained by UW-Platteville in any medium (paper or electronic). The definition excludes personal "desk drawer" notes of faculty and staff, financial records of parents or a spouse, campus police records, certain medical treatment records, and alumni records obtained after graduation.
- School Official - A person who serves the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position, including law enforcement personnel, health staff, student employees, and field supervisors. This definition also includes a person or company with whom UW-Platteville has formally contracted such as an attorney, auditor, collection agent, or an organization contracted to perform an official function of the university (e.g. the National Student Clearinghouse); a person serving on an official university committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee; or a person legitimately authorized to assist another school official in performing his or her professional UW-Platteville responsibilities.
- Legitimate Educational Interest - The demonstrated professional "need-to-know" by a UW-Platteville school official. The school official must seek the information within the context of his/her professionally assigned UW-Platteville responsibilities and the information must be used within the context of official UW-Platteville business.
Disclosure of education record information to a UW-Platteville school official having a legitimate educational interest does not constitute authorization for that school official to transmit, share, or disclose any or all of that information to a third party who does not have a legitimate educational interest. An unauthorized disclosure of personally identifiable information from the education record of a student is prohibited.
Parents and FERPA
Parents often expect the same access to student records of their children as they had when their son or daughter attended K-12. FERPA provided them with rights to this information but once their child starts college, those rights transfer to the student.
Parents are encouraged to speak with their child about their academic progress. University officials may not release any information to a parent without written consent from the student. Information should not be shared by phone or e-mail.
Student Safety and FERPA
While FERPA pertains to a student's educational record, it does not prevent a university employee from sharing information about a student's behavior. Faculty and academic teaching staff who see their students on a regular basis are often the first to observe serious personal problems or troubling behavior.
Changes in a student's behavior could mean warning signs of distress. These changes could include: physical or verbal aggression, withdrawn and shy behavior, uncontrollable crying, bizarre e-mails, talking to oneself, a disheveled appearance, or a sudden change in academic performance (drop in grades, not showing up for class, etc.)
Simple FERPA Do's and Don'ts for Faculty and Staff
- DO refer requests for information from the educational record of a student to the proper education record custodian (the Registrar's office).
- DO keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your teaching and advising responsibilities.
- DO keep any personal professional records relating to individual students separate from their educational records. Private notes of a faculty/staff member concerning a student intended for the member's own use are not a part of the student's educational records.
- DO NOT display student scores or grades publicly in association with names, Social Security Number, Campus IDs or other personal identifiers (including any part of a number)
- DO NOT put papers, graded exam books, or lab reports containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places. Students are not to have access to the scores and grades of others in the class in ways that allow other students to be identified.
- DO NOT request information from the educational record custodian without a legitimate educational interest and the appropriate authority to do so.
- DO NOT share student educational record information, including grades or G.P.A.s with other faculty or staff members unless their official responsibilities identify their "legitimate educational interest" in that information for that student.
- DO NOT share information from student educational records, including grades or G.P.A.'s with parents or others outside the institution, including letters of recommendation, without written permission from the student.