January 12, 2017 at 3:24 pm #914
For many faculty, the implications of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) regarding their interactions with students and the handling of student information can be overwhelming. One approach is to create a “top ten” list of questions and answers regarding FERPA. Please share some of the questions that you either have generated or plan to develop for a FERPA Q&A.
January 24, 2017 at 2:25 am #1034
The LSU FERPA FAQ page can be found here: http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/registraroffice/privacy-guidelines/ferpa-for-faculty-and-staff/
FERPA for Faculty and Staff
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (also known as the Buckley Amendment) is a Federal Law that helps protect the privacy of student education records. The Act provides students the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records, and the right to limit disclosure of information from the records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of education records. The Act applies to all institutions that are recipients of federal aid administered by the Secretary of Education
When do FERPA rights begin?
FERPA governs and protects students’ rights to their individual educational records. Their FERPA rights begin when they enroll; that is, when the student has scheduled classes, paid fees and classes have begun.
What information about students may be released to faculty members and other University staff members?
Items defined as directory information may be released without a student’s written permission, provided that the student has not chosen to restrict his or her directory information. All other personally identifiable information in a student’s educational record is confidential and may be disclosed to appropriate University faculty and staff members only if their normal job duties require such access.
What is Directory Information?
Directory information is information contained in an education record of a student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
Louisiana State University has established the following as Directory Information and it may be released to those requesting it unless the student specifically requests otherwise by submitting written notification to the Office of the University Registrar.
Student’s name, local address, and telephone number
Student’s home address
Student’s e-mail address
Student’s major field of study/classification
Student’s participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams
Dates of student’s attendance
Degrees, awards, and honors received by student
The most recent previous educational institution attended by the student
Louisiana State University will not disclose any other information without written consent from the student. Students have the right to refuse the disclosure of personally identifiable information as directory information subject to other overriding provisions of law. To withhold directory information, students must fill out the Request to Prevent Disclosure of Information form located in the Office of the University Registrar, Room 112, Thomas Boyd Hall.
If a student has chosen to restrict the release of directory information, NO information can be released without further written permission of the student. Should someone inquire about an individual who has restricted the release of his/her directory information, the appropriate faculty/staff response is, “I am sorry, I do not have any information on any such person.”
If students have restricted the release of directory information, you will see a special “overlay” screen when you access their records in the SRR data base.
For more information concerning the privacy rights of students, please refer to the Official University Policy Statement,PS-30.
Do I have to release information from a student’s educations record?
FERPA regulations state that you MAY release directory information about a student, but FERPA does not require or compel you to do so.
What do I do about subpoenas?
If you receive a subpoena regarding a student’s education record, please contact, University Registrar, Robert Doolos (578-1690 or firstname.lastname@example.org) before you respond. There are FERPA regulations that the University must comply with before responding to subpoenas or court orders.
May I release confidential information to officially registered student groups?
Student groups do NOT have legitimate educational interest and consequently may not be given confidential information about a student or students without each student’s express, written permission.
May I access confidential information about students?
Access to personally identifiable information contained in educational records may be given to appropriate University administrators, faculty members, or staff members who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. Faculty members do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access. This type of access is termed “legitimate educational interest.”
How does FERPA affect letters of recommendation?
Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student to allow you 1) to access the student’s educational records and, 2) to disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member may access a student’s educational records without the student’s express written permission only if specific job duties, such as the duties of an academic advisor, require access to those records. However, a faculty member, or any other appropriate University official, may not disclose confidential information from a student’s educational records to a third party without express, written permission from the student. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed without the student’s consent.
What information about students may I disclose to parents?
Without the express, written permission of the student, parents, like all other third parties, including designees, may have access only to the student’s directory information. If a student has restricted his or her directory information, then the directory information is considered confidential and you should respond to any inquiries by by saying “I have no information to provide about that individual.” Confidential information may be released to parents only with the expressed, written permission of the student.
Please refer parents seeking information from their students’ education records to the Office of the University Registrar.
Does FERPA affect the return of assignments?
Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student’s express, written permission. Therefore, extreme care should be used to protect such information (e.g., student ID numbers) when returning assignments, term papers and exams to students.
Does FERPA affect the posting of grades?
University policy prohibits the disclosure of any confidential student information in a personally identifiable manner without the student’s written consent. Faculty members may use student-specific, password-protected systems (such as Moodle) to communicate academic work, grades or other confidential information to students on an individual basis.
How do I properly dispose of confidential information?
Dispose of all material containing confidential information (such as tests, papers, class rosters) by shredding or by placing them in a receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.
January 25, 2017 at 3:45 pm #1049
Hi Amanda and Hala,
Hope your week is going well so far.
Hala, thanks for bringing into the discussion the information displayed on the link for LSU FERPA guidelines. I would agree with Amanda that the amount of information could be overwhelming, especially when approaching FERPA from different roles/perspectives (parent, student, school administrator, faculty). There could be found information on FERPA that may be more or less ‘relevant’, ‘easy to understand’, or ‘appealing’ (please don’t get me wrong, all info regarding FERPA is relevant) depending on who is looking at this information. Right now it seems to me that the information for the different stakeholders is all over the place, and some may be missing.
How does FERPA relate to me: as the parent of a college student? As an administrator who works with student records? As a student? As a researcher? As an instructor?
What are FERPA implications for teaching, research, or parent’s access to students’ records?
I think Amanda is on the right track when she suggests narrowing information to the ‘10 top questions’ regarding the presentation and dissemination of FERPA policy. I would add to this suggestion to cluster the information according to the different stakeholder’s needs and interests.
We know that the chances of better understanding a new concept increase when it relates to a personal experience. So, I would like to see a site where I could be directed to information for ‘parents’, ‘administrators’, ‘researchers’, ‘instructors’, ‘students’, etc.
Here is some information I found on this Website for the Department of Education that may illustrate my point
On question 7 and 8 of their FAQ list there is information relevant to parents and students that are not included in the LSU site.
7. Can a postsecondary institution disclose financial records of an eligible student with the student’s parents?
If the student is a dependent for income tax purposes, the institution may disclose any education records, including financial records to a student’s parents. If the student is not a dependent, then the student must generally provide consent for the school to disclose the information to the parents.
8. What if my child is a minor and he or she is taking classes at a local college while still in high school – do I have rights?
If a student is attending a postsecondary institution – at any age – the rights under FERPA have transferred to the student. However, in a situation where a student is enrolled in both a high school and a postsecondary institution, the two schools may exchange information on that student. If the student is under 18, the parents still retain the rights under FERPA at the high school and may inspect and review any records sent by the postsecondary institution to the high school.
As a parent of a college student, I would like to exercise my FERPA rights to check on my son’s progress ☺
All the best,
January 25, 2017 at 6:51 pm #1053
Ah yes! It would help if I read the prompt more carefully 🙂
I absolutely agree. I also think it would be helpful to organize FAQs in categories (e.g., student, graduate teaching assistant, staff, faculty, parents, etc.). While the information may already be available on a university site, organizing it so that it is specific to groups’ needs and interests is beneficial. After a quick search on LSU’s site, I found several more sites:
FERPA for Faculty and Staff: https://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/registraroffice/privacy-guidelines/ferpa-for-faculty-and-staff/
FERPA for Students: http://sites01.lsu.edu/wp/registraroffice/privacy-guidelines/ferpa-for-students/
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January 26, 2017 at 5:53 pm #1061
Thanks for providing the links and for your thorough posts. Essentially under FERPA, we must provide defined limited access to students’ information while ensuring the privacy of students records.
Definitely! The FAQ about FERPA that Hala provided shows a nice, quick overview for new faculty members or seasoned ones who just need a refresher. Faculty members, generally, need that clarification about how FERPA affects how they do their jobs. As a couple of exampes, faculty must consider students’ privacy when issuing letters of recommendation and that they may use discretion about releasing a student’s directory information. Faculty even need to know the most secure *method* for releasing non-directory information.
Your points about considering stakeholders perspectives in applying FERPA are well taken. Parents have certain rights under FERPA of which faculty should be aware, as in the example you gave about parents of dual enrollment students who are minors. Additionally, practices in regards to FERPA may be different in certain situations depending on a faculty members role–as an advisor, administrator, researcher, or teacher.
Maybe others have heard or seen some interesting scenarios that uphold or violate FERPA. What are some scenarios–for better or worse–that could influence faculty members’ compliance with FERPA?
April 4, 2017 at 11:06 am #1526
I have several faculty that would like to promote the use of social media in their courses. This includes producing artifacts like websites, blogs, and linkedin profiles, as well as using Pinterest, or Instagram for informal learning and collaboration between students.
The use of these platforms has an educational purpose; it is not just window dressing. Our worlds are online in so many ways now and it is important that students that need experience in those worlds get guided instruction in them. But this raises some interesting concerns over student privacy. For example, if it is clearly spelled out in the syllabus that the course requires an open social media presence as part of the educational content of the course, is this a FERPA violation?
In some cases, an alternative assignment is acceptable, but in many it defeats the purpose and intent of guiding students how to build their personal brand on social media.
I would be interested to hear what experiences, processes, or guidelines (legal or otherwise) that you all have experienced.
April 5, 2017 at 5:50 pm #1544
Using social media is a great way for faculty to engage students, as it is undoubtedly part of our culture. Students increasingly socialize and network through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, SnapChat, Pinterest, Tumblr, Google+, and other social media platforms on a consistent basis. Why not meet students where they are–right?!?
Faculty should strive to comply with FERPA when using social media for instruction. While protecting students’ privacy and access to educational records under FERPA, a faculty member can require that students have a social media presence for their online course. To ensure students privacy, I would recommend allowing students to create aliases, dissuading students from sharing personal information and course information, and create private forums whenever possible. It is also imperative that faculty refrain from grading students work via social media.
Drake (2014) encourages faculty members to play by the FERPA rules in their use of social media in his Educause article “Is Your Use of Social Media FERPA Compliant?” (https://er.educause.edu/articles/2014/2/is-your-use-of-social-media-ferpa-compliant).
When using Twitter, Facebook, or other social platforms, never reveal information about students that might indicate their grades, course enrollments, class schedules, and so on. Doing so could be noted as a FERPA violation if called out by the student. We must realize what is and is not subject to “inspect and review” regarding our actions with others and students. Any document or communication (digital or not) that is considered an educational record for purposes of FERPA is subject to the ‘inspect and review’ privilege by the student.
Additionally, Orlando (2011) provides some common sense policy suggestions in his Faculty Focus article “FERPA and Social Media” (http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-with-technology-articles/ferpa-and-social-media/). These are some general suggestions for faculty to incorporate social media into their instruction:
– Let students know that what they post outside the LMS may be viewed by others and to take caution.
– Do not require students to share personal information.
– Avoid providing grade related comments or grades publicly.
I would only add to Orlando’s bulleted list that faculty should allow an optional, comparable assignment for students who reject the idea of participating in social media. There is no harm in playing it safe.
Distance education outside the LMS has the propensity to become public, and, therefore, at risk of FERPA violations. I, too, would definitely like to hear more about other’s personal experience relating to students’ privacy and access to their records when using social media for instruction.
April 13, 2017 at 2:15 pm #1598
Jann M. SuttonParticipantOffline
This week I saw a post on the OLC site regarding “8 Things You Should Know Before Using Social Media in Your Class”
It provides solid advice about some of the logistics of using social media in higher education. A few things mentioned that I thought were interesting were to provide a student contract outlining the use of the platform and also to allow students to use an alias.
There are some interesting ideas raised in this article, with a nod to FERPA.
Also, the resources of this article provide a link to the following article as well, which I have not read yet.
Educause, Is Your Use of Social Media FERPA Compliant?
All the best,
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