FERPA Basics

What is FERPA?

  • FERPA is a federal law which protects the confidentiality of students’ educational records. 
  • You have a responsibility to protect the educational records in your possession. 
  • If you come across a situation which may be in violation of FERPA, contact your supervisor. If there is still a question, contact the Registrar's Office. Do not ignore it.
  • Law enforcement records, employment records and sole possession notes are not considered educational records.
  • Parents and spouses do not have automatic access to the educational record of a student. The student can choose to give such access through IUP’s Student Record Release Authorization process.
  • Students have a right to withhold their directory information by filing a nondisclosure form with the Registrar’s Office.
  • Your access to educational information must be for legitimate educational use in order to do your job duties. Curiosity is not a legitimate reason to access a student’s record.

What Not to Do

  • Information not on IUP’s list of “Directory Information” cannot be released without written, signed, and dated consent from the student.
  • Every student record is confidential. Do not discuss private information about one student with another individual unless you have written permission to do so or both parties have legitimate educational interest.
  • Do not display or create public lists of student scores or grades. Do not publish student ID numbers, any portion of a Social Security number, or other personal identifiers.
  • If you are uncertain whether someone has legitimate educational interest, ask your supervisor. If there is still a question, contact the associate registrar for Student Records.
  • If you are a Banner user, watch for the notation “Warning: Information about this student is confidential” as well as the words “Confidential” next to the student’s name. If you see this, no directory information may be shared with a third party about this individual.
  • Use secure venues—e.g., D2L when sending educational record information (grades, quizzes, etc.) to students. Email is not considered to be a secure venue.

Who to Contact

  • In the case of an imminent emergency, contact Campus Police at 724-357-2141.
  • If you have any other questions, contact the Registrar's Office at 724-357-2217.

FERPA For Employees

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

SUMMARY: FERPA GUIDELINES FOR EMPLOYEES

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records, including:
1.) the right to inspect their education records
2.) the right to request an amendment of the records that the student believes are inaccurate
3.) the right to control disclosures of their records except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. The law applies regardless of the medium of storage of the data (electronic, hard copy, scanned, microfiche, etc.)

 

WHAT CAN I DO TO UPHOLD FERPA?

  • Never use your access to student records to go beyond your “legitimate educational interest” which you have received by nature of your employment at the university.
  • Never release student education records to a third party without the student’s signed and dated consent.
  • When asked for directory information, check Banner, our database system. The word “Confidential” will appear on the screen above the student’s name/ID. A“Confidential” notation indicates that no information can be released.
  • Train your student workers about FERPA and their responsibilities in complying.
  • If you find yourself in a situation where you think you might be in violation of FERPA if you take a particular action, it is best to err on the side of caution. Call the Registrar’s office for guidance, 724-357-2217.
  • Keep learning about FERPA. The Registrar’s office is the central point for inquiries. If you have questions or if you desire employees in your area to have FERPA training, contact the Registrar's office at registrars-office@iup.edu.

GUIDELINES FOR RELEASE OF DIRECTORY INFORMATION

One of those exceptions permitted by FERPA is the release of Directory Information to parties outside the institution. Directory Information is defined as information which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. The following Directory Information may be released by IUP without the student’s written permission:

  • Name, address, telephone number
  • Dates and status of attendance (enrolled, part-time/full-time) and previous institutions attended
  • Degrees conferred
  • Major field of study and class
  • Awards and honors
  • Past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities as well as physical factors of athletes (such as height and weight)
  • EMAIL username


The information above can be released without a student’s signature unless the student signs a Non-disclosure Form in the Registrar’s Office. The university is obligated to notify students annually that they have the right to withhold directory information. When a student signs a Non-disclosure Form, a “Confidential” flag appears on the student’s records in the database. NO information is to be released about that student unless the non-disclosure is rescinded in writing.
In most instances, all other student educational record information may not be released without written consent of the student, other than to school officials with a “legitimate educational interest”. This includes grades, social security numbers, ethnicity, ID number, academic progress, or any other non-directory information.

WHAT ABOUT PARENTS?

In post-secondary institutions, once a student registers for class, regardless of age, the rights to the record no longer belong to the parents. FERPA does not prohibit release of information to parents of dependent students. However the problem is determining true dependency. Therefore, IUP considers all students to be emancipated and requires a student’s signature in order to release educational records (grades, class schedule, disciplinary status, enrollment verification, etc.) to parents.

WHAT IS “LEGITIMATE EDUCATIONAL INTEREST”? (Need to Know)

When accessing an educational record, ask yourself:

  • Am I performing a task related to the student’s education?
  • Am I performing a task related to the discipline of a student?
  • Am I providing a service to benefit to the student?
  • Am I performing a task that is specified in my position description or my contract agreement?

Being a school official does not give you carte blanche access to all education records of all students. If you cannot answer “yes” to any of these questions above, YOU MAY BE IN VIOLATION. “School officials” include faculty, administration, and clerical and professional employees, including student workers.

OPERATIONAL REMINDERS

If your office is in an open area:

  • Close all files when not in use or when 3rd parties are present.
  • Position your computer screen so that third parties cannot see information.
  • Close out of student records whenever leaving your work area.
  • Check to see if printers, copiers, and fax machines are in secure areas; if not, arrange to secure.
  • If discussing educational record information with the student, go to a private office or area if at all possible so that conversations cannot be overheard.