FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act): What Faculty and Staff Need to Know

FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), also known as the Buckley Amendment, was passed by Congress in 1974. It grants four specific rights to a post-secondary student:

  • To review and inspect his/her educational records.
  • To request an amendment to his/her records and in certain cases append a statement to the record.
  • To withhold the disclosure of his/her educational records (except for situations involving legitimate educational interest or as may be required by law).
  • To file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education (FERPA Family Compliance Office).

FERPA applies to all educational agencies or institutions, including John Carroll University, that receive funds under any program administered by the Secretary of Education. FERPA governs what may be released, but does not require that any information be released.

It is your responsibility as a faculty or staff member, you have a legal responsibility under FERPA to protect the confidentiality of student educational records in your possession. You have access to student information only for legitimate use in the completion of your responsibilities as a University employee. “Need to know” is the basic principle. Student information stored in electronic format must be secure and available only to those entitled to access that information.

Your access to student information, including directory information, is based on your faculty or staff role within the University. You may not release lists or files with student information to any third party.

Student Information Types

Student educational records include grades, notes, personal information (name, etc.), schedules, student exams, or papers and information provided by a student for use in the education process at the University. FERPA requires institutions to allow students to review their educational records upon request. Personal notes maintained by and for a sole individual and not made available to any other faculty or staff members are exempted from this requirement under FERPA. Note, however, such “sole possession notes” could be subject to discovery through a court subpoena. Exclusions to student educational records include law enforcement records, medical records, non-matriculant records, and post-graduation alumni records.

Directory/Public Information and John Carroll University

Directory Information “Directory information is…information contained in an education record of a student which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.” (FERPA Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Part 99.3)

Directory Information is considered public and can be released without the student’s written permission. However, the student may choose to keep this information confidential. In those cases, you will see the word CONFIDENTIAL on the students’ electronic records. Directory Information can NEVER include:

  • Ethnicity
  • Gender
  • Nationality
  • Race
  • Social security number
  • Student ID number

Storage media for an educational record may vary and can include one or more of the following:

  • Class list on your desktop.
  • Computer display screen.
  • Computer printout in your office.
  • Document in the registrar’s office.
  • Electronic document or email.
  • Notes taken during an advising session.

Directory Information at JCU

  • Name
  • Campus, local, home and email addresses
  • Campus, local, home and cell telephone numbers
  • Major(s)
  • Class year
  • Year of graduation
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Date and place of birth
  • Photograph
  • Dates of attendance
  • Full or part-time status
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Previous educational institution attended
  • Weight and height of members of athletic team

Questions and Answers

How can a student withhold release of directory information?
A student who wishes to prevent the release of directory information must go to the Registrar’s Office by the end of the second week of the fall semester to complete a non-disclosure form. The records of students who have filed a request to withhold directory information will have a CONFIDENTIAL annotation attached to them. Watch for that annotation!

Can student directory or public information always be released?
At its discretion, the University may release directory information. Requests for student directory information from third parties (outside inquiries) should always be referred to the Registrar’s Office.

Can student non-directory information ever be released?
All non-directory information is considered confidential and will not be released to outside inquiries without the express written consent of the student.

What if someone needs to reach the student because of an emergency?
All such inquirers should be directed to the Registrar’s Office during normal office hours. After hours, such inquirers should be referred to the JCU Police Department.

What are parental rights under FERPA?
When a student reaches the age or 18 or begins attending a post-secondary institution regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the students. Parents may obtain directory information at the discretion of the institution. Parents may obtain non-directory information (grades, GPA, etc.) by providing a signed consent from their son or daughter.

Do Not!

  • Use the social security number or student ID number in a public posting of grades or any other information.
  • Link the name of a student with that student’s social security number or student ID number in any public manner.
  • Leave graded tests, papers, or other student materials for students to pick up in a stack that requires sorting through the papers of all students.
  • Discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student or the student’s advisor without the written consent of the student. Refer any inquiries from other parties to the Registrar’s Office.
  • Provide anyone outside of the University with lists or files of students enrolled in your classes.
  • Provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than university personnel in finding a student on campus. Refer inquiries to the Registrar’s Office.