Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Many thanks to the University of Southern California for allowing us to adapt their FERPA Web site to our institutional policies.
What is FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law that protects the privacy of education records of all students enrolled in schools beyond the high school level. Schools are required to maintain that privacy, primarily by restricting release of records and the access provided to those records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
How does the USA Patriot Act amend FERPA?
President Bush signed the "Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act" on October 26, 2001. Section 507 of the USA PATRIOT Act amends FERPA by permitting institutions to disclose, without the knowledge or consent of the student, personally identifiable information from the student's education records to the Attorney General of the United States or his designee in response to an ex parte order (one filed without notice to the student) in connection with the investigation or prosecution of terrorism crimes. Also, the school is not required to record such disclosures.
What are education records?
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and e-mail.
Education records DO NOT include:
- records or notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record (this might include notes an instructor makes while providing career/professional guidance to a student)
- records made or maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, and other health professionals and paraprofessionals that are used only in connection with treatment of students
- employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment
- records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit of the institution used only for law enforcement purposes
- post-attendance records, i.e., information about a person that was obtained when the person was no longer a student (alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.
What is directory or public information?
FERPA allows institutions to identify certain types of information called "directory information" that may be disclosed without student consent at the College's discretion.
RCCD has designated the following information as directory information and will release this information upon request, unless students have restricted their directory information via the Admissions Application or have filed a Change of Information Form with the Admissions office. Indicate the change on #5 OTHER CHANGES.
Directory information at RCCD is defined as:
- student's name,
- telephone listing,
- major field of study,
- dates of attendance,
- enrollment status, (e.g. full time/part time),
- participation in officially recognized activities and sports,
- weight and height of members of athletic teams,
- degrees and awards received,
- the most recent previous public or private school attended by the student
- and any other information authorized in writing by the student.
Restricting Release of Directory Information
According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about him/her. RCCD students initially give or withhold consent via the Admissions Application. Students may change their decision by filing a Change of Information Form with the Admissions office. Indicate the change on #5 OTHER CHANGES. Request for non-disclosure will be honored by the college until removed by the student
Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in any College publications. Also, employers, scholarship committees and the like will be denied any of the student's directory information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student's attendance at RCC.
Who has access to non-directory information?
With several exceptions provided by FERPA, RCC cannot release personally identifiable non-directory information in an education record without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of non-directory information include:
- birth date
- religious affiliation
- disciplinary status
- grade point average (GPA)
- marital status
- SSN/student I.D.
- grades/exam scores
- test scores (e.g., SAT, GRE, etc.)
RCCD protects the privacy of all enrolled students. If students choose to allow an individual permission to access to their education records, they must do so by writing a letter stating their intent. The letter must be accompanied by appropriate identification from both parties and is valid for a single request. In the Student Financial Services department, a student can fill out a Consent to Release Information form which is valid for a school year.
The student's prior written consent is not required to disclose non-directory information under the following circumstances:
- Access by parents of a student who is under 18 years of age as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. Parents must present evidence to the Admissions office that they claim the student as a dependent.
- Access by school officials who the institution has determined to have a legitimate educational interest.
- Access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll.
A "school official" is any person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position (including law enforcement unit, health staff, and student workers); a person or a company with whom the College has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; a person 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 responsibility.
- Access for the purpose of awarding financial aid.
Personally identifiable information may be required to determine eligibility for aid, the amount of the aid, the conditions for the aid, or to enforce the terms or conditions of the aid.
- Access by the Principal Designated School Official (PDSO) and/ or the Designated School Official (DSO) to international student information as defined in The Federal Register 8CFR Section 214.3(g).
The Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services requires the PDSO/DSO to update the federal SEVIS database every semester or every time a change occurs in an international student's record.
- Access for the purpose of responding to a subpoena or an ex parte order.
All subpoenas and ex parte orders must be delivered to and reviewed by the Office of the Vice President of Administration and Finance before any information can be released.
What about a health or safety emergency?
The U.S. Department of Education made a conscious decision in 1988 to allow colleges to determine whether there is, in fact, a health or safety emergency that justifies disclosing non-directory information without the student's written consent. RCC considers the following criteria in determining whether an emergency situation exists:
- Is the emergency a serious threat to the health or safety of the student or other individual(s)?
- Is the information to be disclosed necessary to meet the emergency?
- Are the parties to whom the information is to be disclosed in a position to deal with the emergency?
- Is time of the essence in dealing with the emergency?
Contact RCCD's Safety and Police for assistance in evaluating potential emergency situations.
Student's Right to Inspect, Review, and/or Correct his/her Records
Any student may file a written request with the President of the College to challenge and amend the contents of education records which the student considers to be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of his/her privacy or other rights.
A student may not challenge grades assigned in courses of instruction via this section.
Riverside Community College District's Annual Notification to Students
Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, RCCD annually notifies students and their parents of the rights accorded them by FERPA. Students shall be advised of their rights regarding education records on the RCCD application, class schedule and college catalog.
General questions and comments may be directed to the Admissions and Records Office at:
4800 Magnolia Avenue
Riverside, CA 92506
ATTN: Associate Dean/Director of Admissions and Records
You may also phone Admissions and Records at (951) 222-8600.
Filing a Complaint
If a student feels that the institution has not fully honored his or her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-4605. The Family Policy Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.