How Private Are Your Educational Records?
If you’re 18 years of age and enrolled at a college or university, there are five things you need to know about your records.
1. What is FERPA? The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is the federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. All educational institutions that receive federal funding must comply with FERPA. The general rule is that, unless an exception applies, information in your student education records may not be disclosed without your written consent.
2. What are Your Student Education Records? FERPA prevents the disclosure of your education records, both paper and electronic versions. Those records include your class schedules, student email, disciplinary files, transcripts and grades, as well as nonacademic records such as your financial and student disciplinary records. Your payroll records may also be included if you are employed as a result of your student status such as a work study or resident assistant.
3. What Records Are NOT Considered Student Records? Some records are not included in your education records:
- Personal observations: Observations made by school staff or employees
- Law enforcement: University law enforcement records
- Treatment records: Medical and mental health records made by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other medical professional used for treatment
- Alumni records
While these records are not protected by FERPA, other regulations or policies may limit what a school may do with them. For example, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), 42 U.S.C. § 1320d et seq. may provide additional protection of your school-based medical records. The experienced FERPA attorneys at Duffy Law can explain how these different rules and state laws can be used to protect your information.
4. Why Should You Care About FERPA? If you’re a student, it’s important for you to understand your rights as well of those of your fellow classmates under FERPA. Recent events from the University of Montana serve as a reminder that the application of FERPA is important to all college students.
On January 21, 2016, best-selling investigative author, Jon Krakauer wrote an article in the New York Times setting forth his difficulty in obtaining the academic records of the University’s former quarterback, Jordan Johnson based upon FERPA. In February 2012, a student, referred to as “Jane Doe”, reported to the University that Johnson had raped her at an off-campus apartment. Seven weeks later the dean of students determined that the evidence indicated Johnson was guilty.
The former quarterback appealed to the vice president of student affairs and the finding of guilt was affirmed. Johnson then appealed to the University Court and was again found guilty.
Then, in March of 2013, Johnson was found not guilty of rape in a Missoula County criminal trial courtroom.
Mr. Krakauer, who is investigating the matter for his book “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town,” was not allowed any of quarterback’s student records or even an acknowledgement that there had been a disciplinary proceeding. Mr. Krakauer filed suit against the University in Montana District Court and was granted access to the requested information, but the University appealed to the Montana Supreme Court. The case of data-cke-saved-Krakauer v. State of Montana, is one of the first court cases in the country to challenged FERPA, with oral arguments scheduled for spring 2016.
5. What are Your Student Rights under FERPA?
FERPA gives you and other students four basic rights with respect to education records:
a. The right to control disclosure of your education record;
b. The right to review your education record;
c. The right to request amendment of inaccurate or misleading portions of your education record; and
d. The right to file a complaint regarding non-compliance of FERPA with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education
Contact National FERPA Attorneys
If you have a question about the application of FERPA to your student records or need to file a complaint regarding the school’s non-compliance of FERPA, it is important to speak to the experienced FERPA attorneys at Duffy Law as soon as possible to discuss your situation. You can reach them by calling 203-946-2000.