Confidentiality/FERPA

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.

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 email, 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);
  • medical treatment records that include but are not limited to records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists;
  • 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.

ACCESS TO STUDENT EDUCATION RECORDS

According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student are:

  • citizenship
  • disciplinary status
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • grade point average (GPA)
  • marital status
  • SSN/Sac State I.D.
  • grades/exam scores
  • test scores (e.g., SAT, GRE, etc.)

The university will not release personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son or daughter's education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents' access. Exceptions are noted in the university's policy (located in the Office of the General Counsel and in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs) concerning the privacy of student education records and includes: access by "campus officials" who the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest;" access by campus officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid and subpoenas.

At Sacramento State these terms are defined below:

"Campus official" is any person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position, a student serving on an official university committee, or a person employed by or under contract to the university to perform a specific task. A "campus official" has a "legitimate educational interest" whenever he or she is performing a task that is specified in his or her position, description, or by a contract agreement, performing a task related to a student's education, performing a task related to the discipline of a student, providing a service or benefit relating to the student (such as health care, advising, counseling, job placement or financial aid.)

STUDENT'S RIGHT TO REVIEW AND CORRECT HIS/HER RECORDS

Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student's education record provided such refusal does not limit access.

Limitations exist on students' rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:

  • financial information submitted by parents;
  • education records containing information about more than one student (however, the institution must permit access to that part of the records which pertains only to the inquiring student);
  • confidential letters and recommendations placed in the student's file before 01/01/75;
  • confidential letters and statements of recommendation, placed in the records after 01/01/75, to which the student has waived his or her right to review and that are related to the student's admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors.

Students may request that their education records be amended if they believe such information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights. Students must request in writing that the office that maintains those records amend them. Students should identify the part of the records they want corrected and specify why they believe it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights.

TYPES, LOCATIONS, AND CUSTODIANS OF EDUCATION RECORDS

 
TYPE LOCATION CUSTODIAN
Academic Records Registrar's Service Center, 1st Floor, Lassen Hall University Registrar
Financial Aid Records Financial Aid, Lassen Hall 1006 Director
Financial Records Financial Services, Lassen Hall 1003 Director, University Bursar
Health Records Student Health Center Director
Student Conduct Records Student Affairs, Lassen Hall 3008 Judicial Officer

WHAT IS DIRECTORY OR PUBLIC INFORMATION?

Directory Information is defined as that information contained in an education record of the student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.

The following is considered DIRECTORY INFORMATION and Sacramento State will release and make available to the public UNLESS notified by the student to withhold release of this information:

  • Student’s name
  • addresses
  • university e-mail address
  • telephone number
  • likenesses used in university publications including photographs
  • date of birth
  • major field of study
  • class level
  • dates of attendance
  • enrollment status (part/full-time)
  • degrees earned
  • awards and honors (e.g. Dean’s Honor List) received
  • participation in University recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • most recent educational agency or institution attended 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. Institutions must comply with this request, once received, if the student is still enrolled.

At Sacramento State, students who wish to restrict the release of directory information about themselves must complete a "Request To Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information" form, available at the Registrar's Service Center, first floor, Lassen Hall. Students can restrict the release of all of their directory information by submitting the completed form in person to the Registrar's Service Center, first floor, Lassen Hall, and must be accompanied by a photo I.D.

Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in the commencement bulletin and other university publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, 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 the student's attendance at Sacramento State. Students who wish to have directory information released may do so by providing a written authorization to the Registrar's Service Center, first floor, Lassen Hall. .

ANNUAL NOTIFICATION TO STUDENTS

Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, Sac State will annually notify students of the rights accorded them by FERPA in various campus publications and web sites.

FERPA TRAINING

All faculty and staff, as well as any other agents of the university who request access to student information in the student information system, must complete the Information Security Program Training and submit a signed acknowledgement form. Access to student information system will be denied until this training has been completed and the form submitted. The training program is intended to insure that anyone accessing student education records understands the obligations under FERPA for proper use and protection of student records.

FERPA TUTORIAL

Before beginning the tutorial, you should review all of the topics found on the FERPA homepage. The tutorial will take approximately 10-15 minutes to complete. To begin the tutorial, click here.

COMMENTS/QUESTIONS

General questions may be directed to the Office of the General Counsel, the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs or the Registrar's Office. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to the University Registrar, ferpahelp@csus.edu 2000 Lassen Hall, Sacramento, CA 95819.

FILING A COMPLAINT

If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored his/her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-5920. The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the education 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.

FERPA Forms

FERPA forms can be download from the forms page.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

We would like to express our appreciation and thanks to the Registrar’s Office at the University of Southern California for use of their web design, presentation of information and basic text for this Sac State FERPA website.

Last modified: January 15, 2009

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