The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Students have specific, protected rights regarding the release of such records and FERPA requires that institutions adhere strictly to these guidelines. You share the responsibility for protecting the privacy rights of USCA students and their records. You should be familiar with the various requirements of FERPA. University policy regarding the management of student records is based on this federal legislation. The penalty for inappropriate disclosure is the withdrawal of essentially all types of federal funding. You also need to understand that while South Carolina law prohibits individuals from suing universities for alleged FERPA violations, they can initiate legal action against specific university employees (e.g., a faculty or staff member).
While all this can seem scary, there is no need to be paranoid; it’s a matter of clearly understanding the law and its implications. The Registrar‘s Office staff is available to provide guidance for any situation.
If you need to find out if a student has signed a privacy release to discuss information with parents or other individuals, please call the Records Office.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I verify if a student has signed a Privacy Release Form (FERPA Form)?
Just call the Records Office and we can verify if the student has for you. We can not disclose in educational records without this form being signed.
Parents often inquire about their student's performance. What rights do they have in terms of access to student information?
This can be an extremely frustrating area for parents of traditionally aged students, particularly if the parents are paying the bills. Nonetheless, all FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student when the student either reaches the age of eighteen or moves into post-secondary education, regardless of age. This means that you may not discuss anything about students with parents or spouses, unless you have advance written consent from the student explicitly stating what information you may share, or the student is physically present with the parent for a discussion meeting.
Notes kept by faculty or staff related to students which are not shared with anyone else do not fall under FERPA, so they do not need to be disclosed.
For students who have directed the university not to release their directory information, you may not even acknowledge that the student is present at USCA. There may be an occasional exception in the case of a legitimate emergency, but in that case campus law enforcement personnel will be involved, and they will work through the Registrar’s Office.
If you have any questions about this, feel free to give us a call.
Can faculty and staff members share with each other information from a student's education records?
Faculty and staff members should not share this information with one another unless the person to whom the information is disclosed has a "legitimate educational interest" in the information. To have such an interest, the faculty or staff member must have a need to know the information to perform his or her job function. Mere curiosity is insufficient to satisfy this standard.
What do I do when I receive a request for information about a student who has directed the university not to release any information?
This can be very awkward. If the student has told us not to release any information, university employees may not even acknowledge that the person is or has ever been a student here. You might say, "I have no releasable information." If the caller questions that statement, you may reiterate what you have already said or, of course, you may refer them to us (Records Office).
What if a student believes that their information has been inappropriately disclosed by another faculty/staff member?
Refer the students to the Records Office (Penland 109).
My department maintains a separate database of all students in our major. Is there any reason to safeguard these records?
Yes! All student records that are created and/or maintained by anyone in the university are protected by FERPA in exactly the same way. This includes derived databases in academic departments, administrative offices, etc.
I left a stack of graded papers in a box outside my office so students could pick them up at their convenience. Is this okay?
No, this is a problem. Although it may seem like a convenient service to your students to provide quick return of materials in this way, there is nothing to prevent anyone from inappropriately sifting through all of the papers to learn grades other than his own and possibly to obtain other students' identifying information, all of which is protected.