About The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Protect our students — Protect ourselves

To be allowed access to student records, you must carefully review the material presented on this page. Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility whether you are faculty, staff or student.

Why?

  • Because it's the right thing to do.
  • Because the federal government requires us to do so.

This tutorial is designed to give you a basic knowledge of the rules governing release of student information.

What is FERPA?

FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (sometimes called the Buckley Amendment). Passed by Congress in 1974, the Act grants four specific rights to the student:

  • the right to see the information that the institution is keeping on the student
  • the right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record
  • the right to consent to disclosure of his/her records
  • the right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington

What is a student educational record?

Just about any information directly related to a student and maintained by the college for use in the educational process is considered a student educational record:

  • personal information
  • enrollment records
  • grades
  • schedules

What are the basic rules?

Student educational records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.

As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession.

Some information is considered public (sometimes called "Directory Information"). This information can be released without the student's written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential as well.

Directory Information is defined by Carleton as:

  • name:  the student's full name
  • addresses:  permanent and local college and email address
  • all telephone numbers of record
  • date and place of birth
  • major field of study, area of concentration, certificate of advanced study in foreign language and literature or foreign language and area studies
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • dates of attendance
  • degrees and awards received
  • most recent previous school attended
  • photographs and video
  • class year
  • student ID number

You have access to information only for legitimate use in completion of your responsibilities as a college employee. Need to know is the basic principle.

If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar at 507-222-4289 or amay@carleton.edu. The Office of the Registrar is responsible for student record information.

To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:

  • use the Social Security Number of a student, or any portion thereof, in a public posting of grades or link the name of a student with that student's Social Security Number in any public manner;
  • leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students;
  • circulate a printed class list with student name and social security number or grades as an attendance roster;
  • discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student without the consent of the student or verifying that the student has granted access to the third party by contacting the Registrar's Office;
  • provide anyone outside the college with lists of students enrolled in classes;
  • provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than College employees in finding a student on campus.

Let's apply what you have learned.

If a student's parent calls asking how the student is doing in a class, can you give out that information?

Yes, you may, but only after ascertaining that the student in question is dependent according to the tax code. To be sure of the student's dependent status, contact the Registrar's Office at x4289.

You receive a call from a recruiting firm asking for names and addresses of students with GPAs of 3.0 or better. They say they have good job information for these students. Can you help these students get jobs by giving out this information?

No, you may not. While we all want to help students to get good jobs, that request should be sent to the appropriate office.

Do not give out student information that pertains to grade point average to anyone without prior written consent of that student. In this case the request should be forwarded to the Office of the Registrar. All outside requests for any information such as Dean's Lists must be referred to the Office of the Registrar. Information about the recruiting firm could be provided to students in the appropriate major and to the campus Career Center.

A person comes to your office with a letter containing a signature that gives consent to release the transcript of a student. Do you give the transcript to them?

No, you may not. Transcripts and record information are available through the Registrar's Office. Official transcripts are available only through the Registrar's office. Students themselves can also print UNOFFICIAL copies of their transcripts via the web. Do not give any records to a third party.

You receive a phone call from the local police department indicating they are trying to determine whether a particular student was in attendance on a specific day. Since they are in the middle of an investigation, are you allowed to give them this information?

No, you may not. The police should be directed to the Registrar's office. Information about whether a student was enrolled in a particular semester is directory information and can be obtained through the Registrar's office. If the police require additional information a subpoena may be required. Contact the Registrar at x4289. Additionally, FERPA requires notification of the student, unless it is specifically stated on the subpoena that the student must not be notified.

Is it wrong for professors to leave exams, papers, etc. outside their office for students to pick up?

Yes, this is wrong. That is a violation of the privacy rule because it is inappropriate for students to have access to other students' information. You cannot leave personally identifiable materials in a public place.

An unauthorized person retrieves information from a computer screen that was left unattended. Under FERPA, is the institution responsible?

Yes, the institution is responsible. Information on a computer screen should be treated the same as printed reports. The medium in which the information is held is unimportant. No information should be left accessible or unattended, including computer displays.

You receive a call from another Carleton College employee requesting information on a student. You are able to determine that the employee does not have an educational need to know. Should you share the information?

No, you should not share this information. All data should be considered confidential even from other Carleton employees if there is not a legitimate educational need to know. Curiosity is not a legitimate educational need.

You get a frantic phone call from an individual who says that he is a student's father and must get in touch with the student immediately because of a family emergency. Can you tell him when and where her next class is?

No, you may not. For the safety of the student you cannot tell another person where a student is at any time. Tell the caller to contact the Security office for more information.

Congratulations!

You have completed the FERPA tutorial. You have taken the first step in understanding student confidentiality rights. If you have questions or comments, the Office of the Registrar would like to hear from you.

Otherwise, thank you for taking the time to familiarize yourself with student confidentiality rights as outlined under FERPA.