FERPA FOR STUDENTS
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 regarding the release of educational 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 whom the records are to be released. The University's policy on the privacy of student records may be found at The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (Policy 2112) and atutorial is available, but following are answers to some specific questions.
What are FERPA rights?
As a student you have four primary rights under FERPA:
- the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from the education record (with certain exceptions provided by the law)
- the right to inspect and review the education records;
- the right to challenge or seek to amend the education records under certain circumstances;
- the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office.
When do FERPA rights begin?
FERPA rights begin when the student registers. Students who originally sought admission to one program of study at the university and are denied, but subsequently are admitted and enrolled in a different program of study have FERPA rights only in their admitted/enrolled program of study. Applicants who were denied admission to the University or who do not attend the University do not have rights under FERPA.
What are education records?
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.
What is Directory Information?
Directory information is information contained in the educational record that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Directory Information may be disclosed without prior written consent and includes:
- Student's name, addresses (including e-mail) and telephone numbers,
- Degree sought and time,
- Major/minor fields of study,
- College of major and year (freshman, sophomore, etc.),
- Enrollment status (full-time/part-time) including credit hours,
- Dates of attendance,
- Degrees, awards and honors conferred,
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports,
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams,
- The most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student,
- Fraternity and/or sorority and educational societies.
Can a student restrict the release of directory information?
According to FERPA, while still enrolled a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about him/her. At JMU students who wish to restrict the release of directory information about themselves must complete a "Request to Withhold Directory Information" form, available at the Office of the Registrar, Room 5300, Student Success Center. The completed form must be submitted in person to the registrar's office and must be accompanied by a photo I.D. The restriction will remain in effect until the student withdraws the request.
Students who wish to restrict the release of directory information should realize that this action could have negative consequences. The names of students who have restricted their directory information will not appear in the commencement bulletin and other university publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and the like will be denied directory information and will be told "we have no information available about this person's attendance at JMU."
Can parents access their student's record?
Parents of dependent students in Virginia have a statutory right to access or inspect their son or daughter's education records. At JMU, records may be released to parents only (1) if the students has signed a written release giving the parent(s) access to a specific record, (2) in compliance with a subpoena, or (3) if the student attests that he or she is a dependent, or if the parent proves that the student is a dependent by providing a copy of the latest tax return. This includes mid-semester and final grades which are available on MyMadison but are not mailed to the student's home. Students may request that a copy of their transcript be mailed to parents by completing a Transcript Request form at the Office of the Registrar.
What about crisis situations or emergencies?
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." Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to deal with the emergency.
Who should I contact for more information?
General questions may be directed to the Office of the Registrar or to the office responsible for the record in question. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the Office of the Registrar, firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 540-568-6281.
What other resources are available?
James Madison University, Policy and Procedures Manual, Policy 2112
Family Policy Compliance Office, Department of Education