Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

Students attending or who have attended Leighton University are given certain rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as amended (20 U.S.C. 1232g). However, FERPA allows the University to disclose education records or personally identifiable information from education records in the following circumstances: with the written consent of the student, if the disclosure meets one of the statutory exemptions, or if the disclosure is directory information and the student has not placed a hold on the release of directory information.

What is FERPA?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of education records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their educational records, and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data. The Act applies to all institutions that are recipients of any level of federal funding.

Who is protected under FERPA?

The law protects students who are currently enrolled in higher education institutions or were formerly enrolled regardless of their age or status regarding parental dependency. Parents of students termed "dependent" for income tax purposes may have access to the student's educational records. Deceased students do not have rights under FERPA.

What are Educational Records?

With certain exceptions, a student has the right to access those records maintained by an educational institution or party authorized to keep records for the institution. "Educational Records" include any records in possession of an employee shared with or accessible to another individual.

FERPA contains no requirement that individual records be kept at all. This is a matter of institutional policy and/or state regulation. The records may be handwritten or in the form of print, magnetic tape, film, or other mediums. FERPA coverage includes records, files, documents, and data directly related to students.

This would include transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.

What is not included in an Educational Record?

  • Sole possession of records or private notes held by educational personnel which are not accessible or released to other personnel.
  • Records relating to an individual whom the institution employs (unless contingent upon attendance).
  • Records relating to treatment provided by a medical doctor, physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional and disclosed only to the individual providing the therapy.
  • Institutional records contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer enrolled at Leighton (i.e., alumni records).

What documents can be removed from an Educational Record before the student reviews it?

  • Any information that pertains to another student.
  • Financial records of parents.
  • Confidential letters of recommendation under conditions described in FERPA section 99.12.

What is Directory Information?

FERPA regulations define "Directory Information" as information contained in an education record of a student "that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy." At Leighton, this includes:

  • Student name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Major (curriculum of study)
  • Participation in official school activities
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Class schedule
  • Previous educational institutions attended
  • Legal and local mailing addresses
  • Leighton University email address
  • Photographs that the University took
  • Hometown and previous high school's name

Who is eligible to have access to student information?

  1. The student and any outside persons or entity who have the student's written consent.
  2. University officials who have legitimate educational interests as defined by FERPA.
  3. The parent(s) of a dependent student as defined by the I.R.S.
  4. A subpoena or judicial order allows the institution to release records without the student's approval. However, a reasonable effort must be made to inform the student before tendering with the order.

When do you need consent to disclose personally identifiable information from an educational record (including transcripts)?

A signed and dated agreement by the student must be acquired before any disclosure is made. The signed written consent must:

  • Specify the records that may be disclosed
  • State the purpose of the disclosure
  • Identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made

When is the student's consent not required to disclose information?

  • To school officials with a genuine educational interest.
  • To federal, state, and local agencies involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with educational programs.
  • To organizations engaged in studies on behalf of educational institutions.
  • To accrediting organizations;
  • To parents of dependent children (with appropriate documentation on file);
  • To comply with judicial order or subpoena;
  • Facilities Releasing directory information in a health or safety emergence situation for individuals at Leighton University's facilities;
  • Releasing results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime or violence.

How does increasing technology impact FERPA at our University?

The use of digitized record-keeping systems is increasing at a tremendous rate. Electronic data has supplanted most hard-copy/physical documents. Leighton University will ensure that appropriate policies are established to protect the privacy of those records. The same principles of privacy must be applied to electronic data as apply to paper documents.