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FERPA

 

FERPA - Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Requires that anyone with access to student records (Educational Records), must understand and abide by the law concerning how information is released and to whom.  Faculty and staff, including temporary employees, who need to have access to student information (including MyView and DARS), must pass a FERPA exam to verify that they have a working knowledge of the law.

  • If you are employed by the University of Missouri - St. Louis and your job requires you to view student information (Educational Records), then you need to take the FERPA exam.  Details on taking the FERPA exam can be found on requesting MyView Access page.

 

 

Faculty and Staff FERPA Information

This information and Quick Guide is designed for staff and faculty of UMSL. All information presented on this site is applicable to college level student records. FERPA provides privacy for all levels of education, but there are some differences in the provisions for elementary-secondary students and those for post-secondary students.

The educational institution must provide the student with an opportunity to review their own records, and to challenge the contents if the student believes their record contains an error.

UMSL cannot provide anyone other than the student with access to a student’s records except when the student provides a written release to UMSL which specifies the information to be released and the party which may receive the information.

  1. The educational institution (hereafter UMSL) must provide the student with an opportunity to review their own records, and to challenge the contents if the student believes their record contains an error.
  2. UMSL cannot provide anyone other than the student with access to a student’s records except when the student provides a written release to UMSL which specifies the information to be released and the party which may receive the information.

To obtain faculty or staff access to MyView, you must first pass a Final Exam over FERPA regulations. For instructions on how to enroll in the FERPA course, click here.

 

FERPA Definitions:

FERPA: Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It also referred to occasionally as the Solomon Amendment or Buckley Act.

Educational Records: are those records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the university.  Those records, made available under the The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, are student financial aid, the student's cumulative advisement file, student health records, disciplinary records, admissions file, and academic record.  Confidential letters and statements of recommendation that were placed in student credential folders at the Office of Career Placement Services after January 1, 1975, are also made available, if the student has not waived the right to view these recommendations.  Details on the University's Confidentiality Policy can be found in the University Bulletin.

Student: Any person who is or has been in attendance at the University where the University maintains education records or personally identifiable information on such person. However, the term does not include a person who has not been in attendance at the University of Missouri. The term attendance does not include specific daily records of a student's attendance at the University.

Parent: A parent is defined as a natural parent, an adoptive parent, or the legal guardian of the student. Verify that a person is a parent by reviewing income tax return that shows the student as a dependent (I.R.S. Code of 1954) in the most recent tax year.

Disclosure: To permit access, transfer or communicate student information to any party in any form

Legitimate educational interest: The University discloses education records without a student's prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Curators; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the University.

Directory information: information that may be disclosed without the student’s signed, written consent. Directory Information may include: name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, dates of attendance, full- or part-time status, major field of study, degrees and awards received, most recent prior school attended, participation in sports and activities.

Non-directory Information: Information that CANNOT be disclosed without the student’s signed written consent. Non-directory information includes everything that is not included in directory information, for example grades and GPA.

FERPA Quick Guide:

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is the primary federal law that protects the confidentiality of student records.  A student is defined as any person who is or has been in attendance at the University where the University maintains education records or personally identifiable information on such a person. FERPA does not apply to a student who has not been in attendance.  

As an employee who works with student records, you must uphold all applicable federal laws and University policies designed to protect students' privacy. You are responsible for properly handling student information and are accountable for all information you release, even if the release is unintentional.

To avoid violations of the FERPA law, please DO NOT:

  • Post grades using student IDs, SSNs, or other personally identifiable data.
  • Link a student's name with their student ID or SSN in any public manner.
  • Leave completed homework assignments or exams or test in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through other students' papers.
  • Circulate a printed class list with student IDs, SSNs, or grades as an attendance roster.
  • Discuss the progress of any student with anyone (including parents) other than the student without the student's consent.  The only exception would be a school official who has a legitimate educational interest to review the student records as defined by UMSL.
  • Provide lists of students enrolled in classes to external sources without approval from the Office of the Registrar.
  • Provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than eligible University employees in finding a student on campus.
  • Provide any student's address, phone, or email information unless it is your job to do so.
  • Share your SSO and password that may provide access to MyView, ImageNow, Canvas or other student data systems.  You are responsible for all actives taken using your account in conjunction with the UM System Acceptable Use Policy.
  • Require a student to become a friend/follower on Facebook or Twitter or post/upload videos to external systems such as YouTube as a part of classroom instruction.

Please ALWAYS DO:

  • Ask for a photo ID to confirm the student's identity when they inquire about their own records
  • Respond only to inquiries that you are authorized to field.  Refer all other inquiries to an authorized source, even if you have access to the information sought.
  • Password-protect your computer and files in which you store student records.
  • Keep all electronic recourses such as flash drives and PDAs in a secure or locked location.
  • Double check who you are sending sensitive information to via Outlook to ensure it is the correct person before hitting "send."
  • Use only University authorized email accounts when communicating with students.
  • Sign off when you have finished a computer task involving student data and applications where student data is stored.
  • Destroy electronic or printed materials that contain sensitive or restricted data when they are no longer needed.
  • Require a written release for a letter of recommendation if the release involves personally identifiable information such as grades, GPA, etc.  Statements made by a person providing a recommendation based on personal knowledge do not require a written release.
  • Contact the Office of the Registrar at 314-516-5545 when in doubt for guidance.  Otherwise, always err on the side of caution and do not release student records to anyone unless you are sure it is okay.

For additional information about FERPA, please visit the UM System Collected Rules and Regulations that govern Student Records

 

FERPA Top 10:

 Only the student must be given access to review their own records. Almost all other access is restricted or an option that UMSL can approve or deny based upon our institutional policies.

  1. Virtually all UMSL academic records that can be identified as belonging to an individual student by name, student number or some other identifier are covered by FERPA.
  2. Posting grades is one of the most common challenges and one of the most frequent times when FERPA is violated. Special caution must be used to distribute grades in such a way that only the student can ascertain their own grade.
  3. Students are protected by FERPA from the time they first register in UMSL classes until they are deceased. UMSL continues to protect student privacy after a student is deceased, but may release information in special circumstances.
  4. The student ID number is confidential. The Social Security number is also confidential. In fact, every piece of information UMSL has on file regarding a student may be confidential — if the student has invoked their right to classify "Directory" information as restricted from release. The only way to know if a student has restricted the release of directory information is to look in the student information system.
  5. It is sometimes possible to answer inquiries about a student's record in such a way that you avoid FERPA violations. Some common approaches include: Answer using only generic information that is not specific to the student; if the student has not restricted the release of directory information, answer using directory information when possible; provide the answer to the student instead of to a third party; refuse to answer the inquiry if there is any doubt about violating a student's privacy.
  6. FERPA gives UMSL a "reasonable" amount of time to answer inquiries, not to exceed 45 days. When you receive a request for student information (other than a subpoena), do not feel that you must respond immediately. If you have FERPA concerns, contact the Registrar's Office.
  7. Legitimate educational interest is defined by UMSL in broad terms to mean the following: All employees who need personally identifiable information from student records to do their job may access only that information necessary for them to do their job without first obtaining a signed written release from the student to access the information. Legitimate educational interest does not give an employee the right to access personally identifiable information from student records except that specific information that is necessary for them to do their job.
  8. FERPA is a federal law or regulation and not a UMSL policy or local or state law. It is more than 30 years old and well established in policy, procedure and practice.
  9. Whenever a UMSL  employee is in doubt as to the privacy concerns of a request for information, that employee should do two things: Do not give any information out and contact the Registrar's Office for assistance immediately.

The Two Major Concepts of FERPA:

 These are the two major concepts or building blocks upon which FERPA was written: you must let the student see their own records, and no one but the student is permitted to see them.

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students." Eligible students have the right to inspect and review thier education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.

Eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.

FERPA Exceptions:

Under what conditions is written consent not required to disclose personally
identifiable information?

  • FERPA prohibits UMSL from disclosing personally identifiable information unless we first obtain a written release signed by the student and specifying exactly what information may be released and to whom it may be released.
  • Several exceptions to that basic requirement are included in FERPA. Most UMSL employees do not need to know all of the exceptions, and in fact most employees do not need to know any of the exceptions. If an employee believes disclosure is necessary and there is no student release on file to allow disclosure, it is best to consult the Registrar's Office before releasing information.
  • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
    • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
    • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
    • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
    • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
    • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
    • Accrediting organizations;
    • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
    • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
    • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, "directory" information such as a student's name, address, telephone number, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in the bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.

FERPA and Grade Distribution

It is a violation of student privacy rights to disclose a student's grade on any homework, assignment, quiz, exam or final grade to anyone other than the student except as follows.

It is permissible to disclose information from the education record to other UMSL faculty and staff who need the information to perform their UMSL job. This is called a "Legitimate Educational Interest" and is one of the exceptions permitted by FERPA. A good example of legitimate educational interest is the advising and tutoring services on campus.

Instructors must develop methods of disclosing grades and other assessment results to students in their class in such a way that no one other than the student can know the grade assigned.

Some common methods or strategies used on the UMSL campus include:

  • Canvas grading, which requires a student to log-on using a confidential password;
  • Handing the student his or her grade in person if you know the student, or upon presentation of their student ID card;

When a project is submitted by a team of students, and when all students on the team are given the same grade, it is not a violation of FERPA for them to know each other's grade. It would, however, be a violation for the teams to know the grades of the other teams.

Grade distribution is one of the most common problem areas in FERPA and one that needs faculty diligence for compliance.

FERPA and Parents:

It is common for a parent to demand information from UMSL because they often pay the bills. It is also common for the parent of a minor to demand information.

This is an area where the FERPA rights of elementary and secondary students is different from the rights of post-secondary students. The elementary and secondary education records of a student MUST be disclosed to the parent, but not necessarily to the student. The post-secondary education records of a student must be disclosed to the student, but not necessarily to the parent, even if the parent is paying for tuition, etc.

In most cases, students are willing to sign a written release every time they want to authorize UMSL to disclose information from their education record to a parent. This is our preferred method of honoring the student's privacy rights. If a student has authorized UMSL to release information to a parent, this informatin is on file with the Registrar's Office.

 

The key point to remember about parents is: the student and not the parent has a right to review post-secondary education records. The student may grant the parent Additional Authorized Access, which allows the parent to log into the student information system themselves and review the information they were granted access to.  The student may also authorize the release of information in their privacy settings in MyView. 

FERPA and Employers:

A common request heard on campus is to verify attendance or graduation on a current or former student for employment purposes. These requests may come as a telephone call, a form in the mail, or in person. You may be presented with a standard release form signed by the student, or no signed release.

The UMSL Registrar's Office handles thousands of these types of inquiries every year. You are strongly encouraged to forward or direct all such inquiries to the UMSL Registrar's Office or the National Student Clearinghouse for a response.

One of the exceptions in FERPA permits us to disclose directory information to third parties, anyone who requests information from the education record. Since degrees and honors and awards are part of directory information at UMSL, we can usually answer employment inquiries without the student's signed written consent. However, we must verify that the student has not restricted the release of directory information before we respond.

If a student has opted to restrict the release of directory information, then we cannot disclose any information about the student without the signed written consent of the student. Some staff and faculty provide information without meaning to when responding to inquiries about a student who has restricted the release of directory information. For example, it is inappropriate to say: "That student has restricted the release of directory information so I cannot tell you anything about him." You just confirmed that this student has a record at UMSL and that they have taken steps to protect their privacy. We recommend saying: "I'm sorry but I have no information available regarding that person." It is perfectly acceptable when pushed by an inquirer to repeat yourself: "I'm really sorry, but I just do not have any information available on that individual." You are not denying the person attends UMSL and you are not confirming that the person attends UMSL. Tell an inquirer to contact the person in question if they want to verify educational records.

The standard release forms that we receive in the UMSL Registrar Office are not always sufficient to meet FERPA's strict guidelines for the release of student information from the education record. For this reason, again, we strongly encourage staff and faculty on campus to refer all employment inquiries to the UMSL Registrar's Office for a response.

Another area of concern with employment is letters of recommendation which may be requested by students of faculty or advisors.  Providing letters of recommendation is another area where faculty and staff may need to be aware of FERPA regulations. It is important to remember that the letter or verbal reference may only include examples of the faculty member’s personal experience with the student and should not include details of the educational record or items that are recorded at the institution. Please note if a student asks for grades or GPA to be included, written permission from the student must be obtained.

It is important for you to file a copy of the student's written request for a letter of recommendation and to keep that written request in case it is needed later. Most requests for a recommendation include a "waiver" of the student's right to read or review the recommendation. If the student waives his or her rights to review such recommendations, then they are excluded from the student's right to review their own education record under FERPA.

UMSL does not disclose non-directory information over the telephone to employers or potential employers regardless of the receipt of a signed written release by the student. There is no reliable method of verifying who is on the other end of the telephone.

A faxed copy of a release form is nearly always considered valid and carries the same authority as the original unless otherwise stated on the release form. Release forms are not valid indefinitely. A release form which was signed by the student more than 60 days prior to the request for information may need to be validated by contacting the student.

FERPA: Legal and Law Enforcement Issues:

FERPA was written to protect the privacy of education records and is only an issue when the release of information from an education record has been requested by someone other than the student.

When a health or safety emergency arises, or when an urgent situation occurs on campus involving law enforcement, cooperation with UMSL Police is essential. If you are in doubt as to the authenticity of the emergency, call the UMSL Police immediately to verify that an urgent situation is in progress. All emergency personnel that come onto our campus will be escorted by UMSL police or will have notified UMSL police to their presence. FERPA does not prevent you from cooperating with emergency personnel —but you should only release information from an education record to emergency personnel when failure to do so might hinder them in performing their duties.

If a situation is not an emergency, then UMSL encourages all inquiries from law enforcement to be directed to the UMSL Police Department or the UMSL Registrar's Office for assistance. There have been numerous fraudulent attempts to receive information from education records by real and fake law enforcement officers. The UMSL Registrar's Office is able and willing to help these officers perform their duties, and we encourage you to direct all such inquiries to the UMSL Registrar's Office.

One common legal question on campus is what to do when a subpoena is served upon a faculty member, a staff member, a department or other unit on campus, for student information from the education record. Please do not ignore a subpoena but do not comply with it until you have consulted the Registrar's Office.  Upon receipt of a subpoena, we contact UM Legal Counsel and notify the student that we have been served with a subpoena (unless the subpoena is a criminal court case and specifies not to contact the student). Students have the right to contact an attorney to quash the subpoena, and FERPA requires us to notify the student before we comply with the subpoena.

Some subpoenas request information from multiple offices, such as financial aid, scholarship, academic, student discipline and similar records. A coordinated response to complex subpoenas is often prepared by the UMSL Registrar's Office, Custodian of Records.  Officials who have a badge or gun or business card from a federal agency are not immune from the provisions of FERPA. Refer these officials to the UMSL Registrar's Office (except in an emergency) where they will be treated exactly like all other third party requests for student information from education records. If you receive a subpoena for information from an education record, contact the Registrar's Office immediately. Many steps need to take place to comply with a subpoena.