FERPA FOR STAFF
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 regarding the release of information from 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 the person to whom 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, but following are answers to specific situations.
What information may be released without written consent?
Directory information may be released without the student's written consent provided the student has not submitted a nondisclosure request to the Office of the Registrar. The records of students who have requested non-disclosure of directory information are flagged on the student administration system.
Personally identifiable information that is not categorized as directory information may be released without the student's written consent to "school officials" whom the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest," or to others as specified by law. This includes releases to parent of dependent children, if the child has attested to the dependency, or if the parent has provided the registrar's office with a copy of the latest tax return to prove dependency. Such information may not, however, be released to other individuals including the student's parent (if no dependency is documented), without a signed, written release from the student. The release should state the information to be released and the person to whom it may be released.
Obligation to release directory information
An institution is not obligated to release directory information to anyone. FERPA only says that an institution MAY release information, but there is no obligation to do so. When in doubt, do not release information.
The privacy rights of an individual expire with that individual's death. Access to records held by an institution for a deceased person is not a FERPA issue but a matter of institutional policy. JMU will exercise its own discretion in deciding whether, and under what conditions, information should be disclosed to survivors or third parties. Individuals requesting information from the record of a deceased student should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.
FERPA does not preclude an institution from identifying students as "school officials" with a "legitimate educational interest" for specific purposes. The same requirements and responsibilities for a full time school official exist for student workers. The student workers must be trained on FERPA just as if they were faculty or staff and should sign the STUDENT ACCEPTANCE OF RESPONSIBILITY form found on the "F" drive in the "Forms" folder.
Many fraternities and sororities maintain scholarship committees, academic excellence awards and related types of activities that are based upon personally identifiable information. However, fraternity and sorority members in charge of these activities are not "university officials" and may not have access to student record information, unless the student has provided written authorization.
Students have the right to inspect the contents of their student folder, regardless of their financial status with the institution. An institution is not required, however, to release an official transcript if the student has a past due account. Official transcripts may be released only by the Office of the Registrar.
Under FERPA, the student has the right to request that the institution not disclose Directory Information. To request non-disclosure the student must complete a "Request to Withhold Directory Information" form in the Office of the Registrar. The student's record will be flagged to indicate non-disclosure is in effect, and will remain in force until the student withdraws the request. Students interested in restricting the release of directory information should be referred to Registration Serivces of the Office of the Registrar, 300 Warren Hall.
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 Office of Public Safety at 568-6764.
- Access to the student information system does not authorize unrestricted use of the information nor does it justify viewing information for the sake of curiosity.
- Confidential information should be treated confidentially and not be left displayed on an unattended computer screen.
- Paper records containing personally identifiable information should be shredded according to the University's document retention schedule when they are no longer needed.
- Student schedules or lists of students enrolled in classes should not be provided to anyone who does not have a legitimate educational interest in the information.
Who to contact with questions/concerns
General questions may be directed to the Office of the Office of the Registrar or to the office responsible for the record being sought. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar at firstname.lastname@example.org or 568-6281.