- Parent Access to Education Records
- Sources and Documents Related to Student Privacy Law
- 2008 FERPA Amendments
- U.S. Dept of Education Guidance on HIPAA and Campus Health/Safety Issues
- Notes on Key Issues
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is federal legislation that governs the privacy of student records. This law gives students two types of rights:
First, FERPA requires the university to keep student records private. There are a few limited exceptions, such as emergencies, court orders, providing the records to university officials who have a need to know and “directory information.” “Directory information” may be freely disclosed unless the student has initiated a “”privacy block” in place with the Registrar. Thus, you must check with the Registration and Records Office before making this information available. Directory information consists of a student’s name, preferred email address, enrollment status (e.g., full-time or part-time), grade level (freshman, sophomore, etc), major field of study, dates of attendance, and honors, degrees and awards received, weight and height of student-athletes, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and most recent educational institution attended. However, you must always contact the Office of General Counsel if student records are requested by someone other than the student.
Second, FERPA gives students the right to inspect records about themselves that are maintained by the university.
In addition to FERPA, state law (G.S. 132-1.1(f)) makes personally identifiable information from or about an applicant for admission to NC State confidential. There are also limited exceptions to this law.
Certain forms related to FERPA are routinely used at NC State. These common forms include forms that authorize the release of student records, a form used with a temporary employee to ensure that the employee keeps FERPA records confidential, a form authorizing the posting of student grades, and forms concerning online courses.
Some of these commonly used FERPA forms are available on the NC State Office of General Counsel website. In some situations a web-based consent form is available. Contact Registration and Records or the Office of General Counsel for more information on FERPA forms.
C. Parent Access to Education Records
At the university level, FERPA privacy rights vest solely in the student, even if the student is still a minor. Parents do not have an automatic right to see the university’s records about their children. However, parents may potentially access their children’s education records (e.g., transcripts, disciplinary records, account balances, etc.) in the following ways:
- Ask your son or daughter for a copy of his/her records.
- Have your child complete a consent form that authorizes the release of his/her education records to the parents. If you need assistance determining which consent form is appropriate, please contact the custodian (Registration and Records, student counselor, etc.) of the student’s records. The custodian will work with the Office of General Counsel to determine how to craft the appropriate waiver.
- FERPA allows a university to provide a parent access to education records where the parent supplies proof that the student is a dependent for tax purposes. Proof may be supplied by either (i) having the student verify dependency with the US Department of Education form, or (ii) parents may provide a copy of their most recent federal income tax return, showing the student was claimed as a dependent for exemption purposes. In the instance where a parent is seeking access to her child’s grades, the parent should contact Registration and Records about the provision of their tax return.
- In health or safety emergencies the university may release relevant student records to parents. The custodian of the student’s record should always consult with the Office of General Counsel, when feasible, prior to releasing the record pursuant to the Health and Safety emergency exception.
- The university may notify parents of alcohol or drug violations by students under the age of 21. The custodian of the student’s records should always consult with the Office of General Counsel prior to releasing the records pursuant to the drug and alcohol exception.
D. Sources and Documents Related to Student Privacy Law
Below are some of the main sources of student privacy law that apply to students at NC State:
- FERPA is a federal statute codified at 20 USC 1232g.
- The University’s Administrative Regulation on FERPA: NCSU REG11.00.01 – Family Educational Rights and Privacy.
- An annual notice of FERPA rights will be made available to students by the University. Included in that notice will be a list of directory information — types of information about a student that may be released to the public. Also included will be directions on how a student can establish a “privacy block” so that his or her directory information cannot be released to the public.
- Pursuant to FERPA, the U.S. Department of Education has enacted legally binding regulations that set out in detail what are student’s rights with respect to their education records.
- Brochures issued by the Secretary of Education:
E. 2008 FERPA Amendments
In December 2008, the U.S. Department of Education adopted revisions to its FERPA regulation. Many of the revisions simply clarify the existing policy. All university personnel should be familiar with the FERPA regulation.
The revisions made in 2008 include:
- Distance education students are covered by FERPA.
- Social Security Numbers and electronic identifiers that are used to authenticate a student (i.e., allow access to personal information) must be kept confidential and may not be disclosed as “directory information”.
- Universities must implement safeguards that limit access to student records by “school officials” to only those situations where there is a legitimate university educational need.
- When someone asks for records (e.g., a student, or someone who has the student’s consent), the university custodian of the record must authenticate the identity of the requester.
- Disclosure of the outcome of a disciplinary hearing for a sex offense (a Clery Act disclosure) must be made to the victim or alleged victim without any condition that prohibits redisclosure.
- Universities have broader discretion to make disclosures of student records in cases of health or safety emergencies.
- A student’s “privacy block” on directory information continues after the student leaves the university, unless revoked by the student.
- A student’s email address may be disclosed to other students in the same class even if there is a privacy block in place.
- The preamble to the December 2008 regulations contains recommendations on how to prevent and remedy improper disclosures of student records.
F. U.S. Dept of Education Guidance on HIPAA and Campus Health/Safety Issues
- The Department of Education has issued new guidance on (1) the interplay between FERPA and HIPAA on college/university campuses as they relate to a student’s treatment records, (2) emergencies on campus, (3) FERPA-compliant release of education record in the event of a health or safety emergency, and (4) campus response to the H1N1 outbreak. This guidance can be found by following these links:
G. Notes on Key Issues
- A student’s thesis is an “education record”, but may be disclosed without the signed and dated specific written consent of the student, provided that the student was advised in advance that the thesis could be made publicly available as part of the curriculum requirements.
- If a student is a financial dependent, both parents may have access to her/his records, even if they are divorced and only one of them claims the tax exemption. However, you should always contact the Office of General Counsel before releasing a student’s records to someone other than the student.
- Electronic class discussion: email and online presentations of papers usually become “education records once received by a university employee.” However, communications and posting of written work for electronic discussion among students in a class does not require the signed and dated specific written consent of the students, provided that (a) electronic postings of student work do not contain grades or comments of the professor, (b) the students perform the posting rather than the professor, (c) students are notified prior to or at the time of enrollment that posting of their work is a course requirement, and (d) the posted work is available only to members of the class.
Please address questions about student privacy law to the NC State Office of General Counsel.
Students who want to inspect their education records should contact the university officials who keep the records. For transcripts and enrollment information, contact Registration and Records.