FERPA FOR FACULTY
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these records. Generally the law provides that, with some exceptions, no information, applications, forms, letters, records, transcripts, etc. may be released, whether orally or in writing, without prior written consent, dated and signed by the student, specifying the records to be released, the reasons for release and to who the records are to be released. The University's policy on the Confidentiality of Educational Records may be found at The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Policy 2112) and a tutorial is available.
Following are answers to specific instructional situations.
The public posting of grades either by the student's name, student identification number or social security number, without the student's written permission, is a violation of FERPA even if the names are obscured. Instructors can assign students unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades but the order of the posting must not be alphabetic.
Returning graded papers and assignments
Distributing graded work in a way that exposes the student's identity (such as on a web site) or leaving personally identifiable, graded papers unattended is no different from posting grades publicly. If the papers contain "personally identifiable" information, then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA. Possible solutions for distributing grade information to students would be to leave the graded papers (exams, quizzes, and homework) with an assistant or secretary who would ask students for proper identification prior to distributing them, leave graded work in a sealed envelope with only the student's name on it, or use a code name or number known only to the student and faculty member to identify graded work.
Sending grades to students
Instructors can notify students of their final grades via the U.S. mail if the information is enclosed in an envelope. Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy. Notification of grades via email is permissible since the student must authenticate using an ID and password, but there is no guarantee of confidentiality. Posting grades on a web site that is open to public access or in a way that exposes individual grades to other class members is not acceptable.
Access to student records
Faculty members are normally considered "school officials," but a faculty member will have to demonstrate "legitimate educational interest" (e.g. advising students, retention study, etc.) to receive access to student records beyond their class and grade rosters. Faculty do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access.
Parents requesting information
Such things as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc. are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and the parents may not have access unless the student has provided you with written authorization that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s), or unless the student has attested that he or she is a dependent of the parent, or unless the parent has provided the registrar's office with a copy of the latest tax return proving dependency.
Governmental investigators requesting information
If a governmental investigator contacts you regarding a current or former student, please request identification and a copy of the release form signed by the student. Investigators seeking the educational records of JMU students visit the Office of the Registrar first to secure a copy of the students’ transcripts and class schedules, if requested. The Office of the Registrar also verifies the identification of the investigator and keeps a copy of the release form signed by the student.
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is "necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals." In the case of an emergency, contact the University Ombudsperson at 568-6468 or the Public Safety office at 568-6764.
Letters of recommendation
Written permission of the student is required for a letter of recommendation if any information included in the recommendation is part of the "education record" (grades, GPA and other non-directory information).
Who to contact with questions/concerns
General questions may be directed to the Office of the Registrar or to the office responsible for the information being sought. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 540-568-6281.