Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA for Faculty and Staff
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
What is FERPA?
Maintaining confidentiality of student records is everyone's responsibility whether you are faculty, staff or student.
Annually, the County College of Morris (CCM) informs students of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended. This Act (formerly known as the Buckley Amendment), which the institution intends to comply with fully, has been designated to protect the privacy of educational records. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. Click here to see Access to Student Records.
The following is considered "Directory Information" at CCM. Any part of the list may be made available to the general public unless the student notifies the Vice President for Student Development and Enrollment Management in person or in writing that this information should be kept confidential.
Name; email address; major field of study; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; dates of attendance; degrees and awards received; enrollment status (full/part time).
Penalties for Violating FERPA Regulations
The Family Policy Compliance Office reviews and investigates complaints of violations of FERPA. If the Office finds that there has been a failure to comply with FERPA, it will notify the institution about the corrections that need to be made to bring the institution into compliance. The Office will establish a reasonable period of time for the institution to voluntarily accomplish the specified changes.
If the Secretary of Education finds, after this reasonable period of time that an institution has failed to comply with FERPA and determines that compliance cannot be secured by any means, he can, among other options direct that no federal funds under his administrative control (financial aid, education grants, etc.) be made available to that institution.
What is an Educational Record?
Education records are records which
- contain information which is directly related to a student; and
- are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
Posting of Grades by Faculty
The public posting of grades either by the student's name, social security number or CCM identification number is a violation of FERPA. This includes the posting of grades to a class website and applies to any public posting of grades for students taking distance education courses.
Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy rights.
Notification of grades via e-mail is not recommended. There is minimal guarantee of confidentiality on e-mail. The institution would be held responsible if an unauthorized third party gained access, in any manner, to a student's educational record through any electronic transmission method.
CCM provides a secure web application for students (Web Advisor) to view their academic record. In addition to a unique user id, a student must also supply a self-assigned PIN, which is a second level of security, to view these records.
Letters of Recommendation
Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person's personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student's educational record is included in the letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which (1) specifies the records that may be disclosed, (2) states the purpose of the disclosure, and (3) identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
If this letter is kept on file by the person writing the recommendation, it would be part of the student's education record and the student has the right to read it unless he or she has waived that right to access.
Sample letter of recommendation -
I give permission to Prof. Smith to write a letter of recommendation to:
324 Wilkins Drive
Prof Smith has my permission to include my GPA and grades.
I waive (or do not waive) my right to review a copy of this letter at any time in the future.
Nothing in FERPA allows an institution to discuss a student's educational record publicly - even if a lawsuit has made the information a matter of public record. A school official may not assume that a student's public discussion of a matter constitutes implied consent for the school official to disclose anything other than directory information in reply. Additionally, college employees should follow college policy regarding the release of information to the media. All media requests should be directed to Kathleen Brunet Eagan, Director of Communications and College Relations at 973-328-5052.
Legitimate Educational Interest
A School official has a legitimate educational interest if he/she is:
- performing a task in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility;
- performing a task related to a student's education; or
- performing a task related to a disciplinary action involving a student.
What is NOT "legitimate educational interest"? Legitimate educational interest does not convey inherent rights to any and all student information. The law discriminates between educational interest, and personal or private interest; determinations are made on a case-by-case basis. Educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student's written permission.
Special "DON'TS" for Faculty
To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:
- at any time use the a student’s Social Security Number or student ID# in a public posting of grades
- ever link the name of a student with that student's social security number or CCM ID# in any public manner
- leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students
- circulate a printed class list with student name and identification number or grades as an attendance roster
- discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student
- provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose
- provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than college employees in finding a student on campus
Resource: The AACRAO 2006 FERPA Guide