FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)
The purpose of this page is to provide basic FERPA information for Bluegrass Community and Technical College faculty and staff. BCTC is legally and ethically obligated to protect the confidentiality of our students. In our high-tech environment, how we handle or mishandle student information could have significant consequences.
Please visit the FERPA F.A.Q.
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as FERPA, or the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law governing the privacy of educational records. FERPA gives students five rights:
- The right to inspect and review educational records
- The right to seek the amendment of educational records
- The right to consent to any disclosure of those records
- The right to obtain a copy of the school's Student Records Policy
- The right to file a complaint with the FERPA Office in Washington, D.C.
What is an Educational Record?
FERPA defines an educational record as: "Information about a student that is maintained by the university as part of the educational process."
The following are not considered educational records:
- Private notes of an individual faculty or staff member ("sole possession" records)
- Campus police records
- Medical records
- Aggregate (statistical) data that contains no personally identifiable information about any student.
Be aware, though, that contents of an educational record may appear in a variety of forms, such as:
- A handwritten document
- Computer file
- Computer screen
- Verbal Exchange
FERPA allows colleges and universities to classify part of the educational record as "directory information". Normally, schools may disclose directory information without the written consent of the student. Directory information includes:
- Address (including email)
- Telephone listing
- Date and place of birth
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards achieved
- Most recent previous educational institution attended by student
Suppressed Directory Information
Students have the right to require that directory information about them not be disclosed. To activate a privacy flag, a student must submit a request in writing to the Registrar's Office. Please note that students who request suppression of directory information usually do so for serious, even dangerous, circumstances. It is critical that their absolute privacy be protected in every situation.
If a student has elected to suppress all directory information, the college will respond to all inquiries as follows:
"There is no information available for any student by that name."
Non-Directory Information is any educational record not classified as directory information (this includes grades, social security number, GPA, etc...). This private information may not be released to anyone, including parents of the student, without written consent from the student. College staff may access this information only if they have a legitimate need to use it to fulfill official duties. There are some legitimate exceptions to this rule, however. Directory and non-directory information may be released without the student's consent in the following instances:
- Officials or faculty of the college who have a legitimate educational interest (need to know to fulfill official responsibilities)
- Officials of other schools or school systems in which the student seeks to enroll
- Certain Federal and State Education Authorities
- Accrediting and University-approved testing agencies
- Appropriate parties in connection with an emergency when the immediate health or safety of the student is threatened
- Persons representing an officially-related judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- Institutions from which the student is receiving financial aid
Please remember that if you have access to student data, you are responsible for its proper handling. No matter what the form or content, you are accountable for handling student records in accordance with the law and college policy. It is always better to err on the side of caution where confidential information is concerned. Please contact the Registrar's Office if you have any further questions.
Question (Q): An academic department is preparing a mailing list to departmental students about a critical academic deadline. Should the mailing list include the name and address of students who has requested that all information be suppressed?
Answer (A): Suppressed information may be used by college officials to meet the direct educational needs of the student in question.
Q: An unauthorized person obtained private student information from a computer screen that was left unattended. Is this a violation of FERPA?
A: Yes. Measures must be taken to prevent inadvertent release of educational records, and this includes information available on a computer screen. Carefully protect information on computer screens as well as system passwords and access.
Q: Can I include non-directory information in a letter of recommendation for a student?
A: ONLY if the student has provided written permission to the person writing the letter.
Q: Can I send non-directory information (e.g. grades) to my students using email?
A: This must be outlined in your syllabus, and the student must be given the opportunity to request that this method of delivery not be used.
Q: Can student grades be posted by social security number or name?
A: No. This can only be done if each student provides written permission to do so. Even with permission from the students, this is not recommended. A unique number assigned to each student is a preferred method.
Q: I have a stack of midterm papers for students to pick up. Is it acceptable to leave the papers in a location where students can look through the stack to locate their own paper?
A: No. Leaving the papers in a location where students can look through the stack would violate the confidentiality of each individual student, since students can see the names and grades of their classmates.
Q: If a parent calls to ask how his/her child is doing in class and none of the student's directory information has been suppressed, can I give them information on their child's grades?
A: No. FERPA recognizes secondary education students as adults who are entitled to privacy. Although a student's directory information is not suppressed, grades are non-directory information and may not be released. Q.) If I receive a call from the police asking for a student's class schedule in order to assist them in investigating a crime, may I give out the information? A.) No. A student's class schedule is non-directory information. Law enforcement authorities must provide a court order or subpoena to obtain private educational records. Please refer these individuals to the Registrar's office for further information.
Q: If my department head asks for a list of names and addresses for students who are enrolled in a specific course for the purpose of mailing a course quality survey, may I give it to her/him?
A: It is permissible to supply the list because the information is to be used by a college official to carry out responsibilities that are related to the educational interests of the students.
Q: You receive a call from the parent of a registered student for whom all directory information is suppressed. The parent wants to know if the student is registered for the current semester. What is the correct response?
A: The correct response is "no information is available for anyone by that name."