Student Records: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
This document provides a summary of the law in this area
and answers questions frequently asked of attorneys in the Office of
University Counsel. However,
the information presented here is intended for informational purposes
only and nothing in this document should be construed or relied upon as
legal advice. You should
refer to official University policy or consult with the Office of
University Counsel regarding the specific facts and circumstances
associated with any legal matter.
Records: Family Educational
Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, known as
U.S.C. § 1232g; 34C.F.R. Part 99)
governs access to student education records maintained by educational
FERPA protects from
disclosure "education records," broadly defined to include all
records directly related to a student and maintained by an educational
institution or someone acting on its behalf (e.g., contractors).
Student disciplinary records are included within the definition of
education records. However,
the definition excludes several other types of information including:
· campus law enforcement records (if certain criteria
defines "student" broadly to include any individual who has
attended an educational institution at any time and about whom the
institution maintains records.
Directory information is
defined as information that would generally not be considered harmful or
an invasion of privacy if disclosed, such as:
Social Security numbers are not considered directory information.
must have notice of what the institution considers directory information
and an opportunity to object to disclosure of all or part of the
proposed directory information. Because
each student has the individual right to object, all student files
should be checked for disclosure limitations before directory
information is compiled and made available.
access to the student's own education records. Students
generally may access their own education records, except for the
· parent financial records (often submitted as part of a
financial aid application);
institution must remove such information before providing records to the
student, unless it obtains consent from the subject of the information
or from the author of the letters of recommendation.
Parental access to student education records. Generally
speaking, parents of students presently or formerly enrolled at
Public access to student education records.
protection means that the public cannot access a student's education
records without that student's valid consent.
Valid student consent.
A student's valid consent
means an informed, written consent that:
· specifies the records to be disclosed;
Disclosures permitted without consent.
An institution may disclose
student education records without the student's consent in limited
include disclosure to:
· School officials with a legitimate educational
FERPA permits, but does not
require, these disclosures. When
disclosure is contemplated under these provisions of FERPA, it may be
appropriate to consult with counsel to apply the balancing and
notification requirements of FERPA and
Record of disclosures.
As part of the education
record of each student, each institution must maintain a record of
disclosures which contains the following information:
the names of all individuals, agencies, or organizations that have
requested, or obtained, access to the student's records; and
there is no need to record:
access by the institution's own employees;
Notice of FERPA rights.
Institutions must notify
students annually of their rights under FERPA.
Penalties for violating FERPA.
Penalties for uncorrected
violations or a practice or policy of noncompliance with FERPA may
include a cutoff of federal funding to the institution.
Military access to education records.
The Solomon Amendment (10
U.S.C. § 982; 32
C.F.R. 216, 65 F.R. 2056) is not a part of FERPA, but it allows
military organizations access to information ordinarily restricted under
FERPA for the purpose of military recruiting. Specifically,
the Solomon Amendment permits Department of Defense entities to
physically access institutional facilities to recruit students, and to
obtain students' names, addresses, phone numbers, age, class, and degree
program once every term. The
Solomon Amendment only applies to enrolled students over age 17.
Institutions that violate the Solomon Amendment risk loss of funding from several federal agencies, including the Departments of Defense, Education, Health and Human Services, and Labor. If a component of the institution violates the Solomon Amendment, larger system funding may be affected.
University Office of University Counsel
300 Sullivan Hall, 1330 W. Berks Street, Philadelphia, PA 19122-6086
Phone: 215-204-6542, Fax: 215-204-5804
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