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Student Privacy-FERPA Information

 

What is FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the records and the access provided to these 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.

You can find more information about FERPA by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s Web site at http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.

 

What Kind of Information Can WVC Release?

FERPA has specifically identified certain information known as Directory Information that may be disclosed without student consent.

Wenatchee Valley College has designated the following information as Directory Information and will release this upon request, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:

  • student name
  • major field of study
  • quarters of attendance (including current enrollment)
  • degrees & awards received
  • extracurricular activities, height/weight of athletic team members, awards received, most recent previous educational agency or institution attended.

WVC does not publish a student directory. However, in compliance with the Solomon Amendment, WVC is required to supply student names, addresses, phone listing, date/place of birth, level of education, and degrees received to military recruiters if properly requested.

One exception of permitting disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. 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. A school official is described as follows:

  • A person employed by WVC in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position.
  • A person or company with whom the College has contracted, such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent. 
  • A person serving on the board of trustees or a student serving on an official committee, such as disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.

Upon request, WVC discloses education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student intends to enroll.

 

Restricting Release of Directory Information

According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release any directory information about themselves. Institutions must comply with this request, once received, if the student is still enrolled.

Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names would not appear in the commencement bulletin and other college publications. Also, employers, loan agencies, 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 such a person at Wenatchee Valley College.

Students who wish to block the release of their directory information may do so by providing a written authorization to the registrar's office. Simply download a copy of the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information, fill it out and return it to the registrar's office. Please note this authorization will only remain in effect for one year from the time it is signed. You must provide WVC with a new authorization form each year you are enrolled if you wish to continue the block on your directory information.

 

Students Rights Under FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. They are as follows:

1. The right to inspect and review your record within 45 days of the date that your request for access is received.

Submit your written request (by filling out the Review Records Request Form) to the Registrar, identifying the record(s) you wish to inspect. The registrar will make arrangements for access and notify you of the time and place where the record may be inspected. If the registrar does not maintain the record you wish to inspect or review, you will be advised of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

Financial holds
Students have the right to inspect the contents of their student folder, regardless of their financial status with the institution. However, an institution is NOT REQUIRED to release an official transcript if the student has a past due account.

2. The right to request an amendment of your educational record if you believe it is inaccurate or misleading.

You may ask WVC to amend a record that you believe is inaccurate or misleading. Write to the Registrar, (by filling out the Request to Amend Records Form) clearly identifying the part of the record to change and specifying why it is inaccurate or misleading.

If WVC decides not to amend the record as requested, you will be notified of the decision in writing and advised of your right to a hearing to consider the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedure will be provided to you when notified of the right to a hearing.

3. The right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in your education record, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.

This refers to the student’s right to allow others access to all or part of their educational record that would normally not be allowed under FERPA. You can specify who is to receive the information and what portions of your educational record WVC is authorized to release. This authorization would remain in effect until the student notifies the office of admissions and registration. For more information see the Permission to Release Educational Records Form.

4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failure by Wenatchee Valley College to comply with the requirements of FERPA.

The name and address of the office that administers FERPA (Phone: (202) 260-3887) is as follows:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave. SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-4605

The Family Compliance Office will investigate each timely complaint. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation this 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.

 

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. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and e-mail, among others.

Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:

  • Sole possession records, i.e., records/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);
  • 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 used only for only that purpose, are revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, and the enforcement unit does not have access to education records;
  • 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.

 

FERPA for Parents

Grades, progress reports, exams
Such things as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc. are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents may not have access unless the student has provided written authorization that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s).

Access to student records
At the postsecondary level, parents have no inherent rights to access or inspect their son or daughter's education records. This right is limited solely to the student. At Wenatchee Valley College, records may be released to parents only if they have been given a written release by the student or in compliance with a subpoena. All subpoenas are first reviewed by the Attorney General to determine the appropriate course of action.

 

FERPA for Faculty

Posting grades
The public posting of grades either by the student's name, institutional student identification number or social security number, without the student's written permission, is a violation of FERPA. Instructors can assign students unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades. However, the order of the posting must not be alphabetic.

Returning assignments
Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers unattended for students to view is no different from posting grades in the hallway. If these papers contain "personally identifiable" information, then leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA if the instructor has not obtained the written permission of each student to do so. A possible solution would be either to leave the graded papers (exams, quizzes, and homework) with an assistant or secretary who would ask students for proper identification prior to distributing them or to leave them in a sealed envelope with only the student's name on it.

Sending grades to students
Instructors can notify students of their final grades via the U.S. Mail if the information is enclosed in an envelope. Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy. Notification of grades via e-mail is permissible. However, there is no guarantee of confidentiality.

Access to student records
Faculty members are normally considered "school officials." But, the faculty member will have to demonstrate "a legitimate educational interest" in their request to access student records, e.g. advising students, retention study, etc. However, faculty do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access.

Parents requesting information
Such things as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc. are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and the parents may not have access unless the student has provided written authorization that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s). Parents requesting this type of information should be referred to the registrar's office.

Letters of recommendation
Written permission of the student is required for a letter of recommendation if any information included in the recommendation is part of the "education record" (grades, GPA and other non-directory information).

 

FERPA for Staff

Who can release student information?
An institution may disclose personally identifiable information without the student's written consent to "school officials" whom the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest."

Obligation to release record information
An institution is not obligated to release directory information to anyone. FERPA only says that an institution MAY release information, but there is no obligation to do so. When in doubt, do not release information.

Deceased students
The privacy rights of an individual expire with that individual's death. Records held by an institution for a deceased person is not a FERPA issue but a matter of institutional policy. WVC will exercise its own discretion in deciding whether, and under what conditions, information should be disclosed to survivors or third parties.
At WVC, the educational records of a deceased student are not to be released unless we are authorized to do so by the executor/executrix of the student’s estate or parents, or next of kin, if an executor/executrix has not been appointed.

Student workers
FERPA does not preclude an institution from identifying students as "school officials" with a "legitimate educational interest" for specific purposes. The same requirements and responsibilities for a full time school official exist for student workers. The student workers must be trained on FERPA just as if they were faculty or staff.

Financial holds
Students have the right to inspect the contents of their student folder, regardless of their financial status with the institution. However, an institution is NOT REQUIRED to release an official transcript if the student has a past due account.

Subpoenas
At WVC, the college will release otherwise confidential information from the educational records in compliance with a lawfully issue subpoena or court order, but only after an attempt to notify the student that the college has received the request and intends to comply.  This delay in compliance is required by FERPA.  It allows the student time to challenge the subpoena or course order.  Exception: If the subpoena or court order specifically prohibits notifying the student, compliance by WVC will be immediate.

Crisis Situations/Emergencies

If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is "necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals." Factors considered in making this assessment are: the severity of the threat to the health or safety of those involved; the need for the information; the time required to deal with the emergency; and the ability of the parties to whom the information is to be given to deal with the emergency.

 

Who to Contact with Questions/Concerns

General questions may be directed to the dean of student development or the office of the registrar, as appropriate. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to Bruce Maxwell, bmaxwell@wvc.edu, or (509) 682-6835.

 

FERPA Related Forms

Click here to download one of our forms related to FERPA compliance.


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