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Training for Faculty,

Staff & Student
What is FERPA?

• Stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act

(sometimes called the Buckley Amendment).
• Passed by Congress in 1974, the Act grants four
specific rights to students:
– The right to see the information that the institution is keeping
on the student.
– The right to seek amendment to those records and in certain
cases append a statement to the record.
– The right to consent to disclosure of his/her records.
– The right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance
Office in Washington, DC.
What are the basic Rules?
• Student educational records are considered
confidential and may not be released without the
written consent of the student.
• As a faculty or staff member, you have a responsibility
to protect educational records in your possession.
• “Directory Information” is information that is
considered public and can be released without the
student’s written permission, unless the student has
opted to withhold directory information.
• If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information
until you call the Office of Records and Registration at
What is a student
educational record?

Just about any information provided by a

student to the University for use in the
educational process is considered a
student educational record including:

• personal information
• enrollment records
• grades
• schedules
The storage media does not matter
Student educational records may be:

• a document in the registrar’s office

• a computer printout in your office
• a class list on your desktop
• a computer display screen
• An e-mail message stored on a VCU
• Microfiche/Microfilm
• Advisor notes taken during an
advisement/ counseling session
What is not a student educational
• Doctor-patient privilege records
• Law enforcement unit records
• Alumni records
• Employment records when employment is not
contingent on being a student
– Records of individuals who are employed as a result of their
status as students are educational records.
• Records/notes in sole possession of maker not
accessible or revealed to any other person except a
temporary substitute (ex: a telephone message)
– Sharing these notes with another person, or placing them in
an area where they can be viewed by others makes them
“educational records” and subject to FERPA.
Directory Information at VCU:
• student name
• date admitted
• birth date
• mailing address and telephone number
• local address and telephone number
• university email address
• semesters of attendance
• major(s)
• minor
• specialization
• school
• full- or part-time status
• classification (freshman, sophomore, etc.)
• degree sought
• honors and awards
• degrees and dates received
• participation in officially recognized intercollegiate sports, weight, height, hometown,
parents’ names and previous school(s) attended (for members of athletic teams)
• ID photograph
• emergency contact information
Disclosure of Directory Information
• The FERPA Act allows for disclosure of directory
• Students have a right to withhold the release of
information designated as “directory information” by
submitting to the Office of Records and Registration,
not later than 14 days after the beginning of a term, a
request written and signed that “directory information”
not be released.
• Schools must notify eligible students annually of their
rights under FERPA.
– VCU will notify students by e-mail annually, and include the
FERPA notification in the Resource Guide.
What rights do parents have under
When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending
a postsecondary institution regardless of age, FERPA
rights transfer to the student.

When may a parent access a student’s educational

A parent may access a student’s educational records:

•after it has been determined that the child is legally a

dependant (must provide a copy of the most recent Federal
Income Tax Form indicating student as a dependent).
•in compliance with a subpoena.
•with written consent from the student.
What rights do spouses have
under FERPA?
• The spouse has no inherent rights under
FERPA to access the student’s educational
– Spouse must produce written consent from the
student for access to the information.
What documents does a student
not have the right to see?
• Financial information submitted by parents
• Confidential letters and recommendations placed in
student’s file before 1/1/75
• Confidential letters, etc., associated with admissions,
employment, job placement or honors to which a
student has waived rights of inspection and review
• Educational records containing information about other
students such as: Grades, Test scores, etc. (However,
students must be allowed to see the portion of the
record that pertains to the student.)
A Student has the right to file a complaint with the U.S.
Department of Education concerning alleged failures
by Virginia Commonwealth University to comply with
the requirements of FERPA.

The name and address of the office that administers FERPA:

Family Policy Compliance Office

U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Ave., SW
Washington DC 20202-4605
Special Hints for Faculty
• To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:
– at anytime use any portion of the social security number or University
ID number of a student in a public posting of grades.
– ever link the name of a student with that student’s social security or
student ID number in any public manner.
– leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick-up that requires
sorting through the papers of all students.
– circulate a printed class list with student names and social security/
University ID numbers or grades as an attendance roster.
– discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the
student without the consent of the student.
– provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any
commercial purpose.
– provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than
university employees in finding a student on campus.
A short quiz:

If a student's parent calls asking how a

student is doing in school, can you give
out that information?
The correct answer is NO
• Even though the person inquiring
may be the student's parent, FERPA
recognizes students in post-
secondary education as adults,
regardless of age. Therefore, you
cannot give out any grades, or any
other non-directory information.
• You must assume that the student is
an adult who is entitled to privacy,
even from parents. Parents may
assert their rights to the records if the
student is their dependent according
to the tax code.
You receive a call from a recruiting
firm asking for names and addresses
of students with a GPA of 3.0 or
better. They say they have good job
information for these students. Can
you help these students get jobs by
giving out this information?

The correct answer is NO
While we all want to help students to get good jobs,
we cannot honor this request.

Do not give out student information that pertains to

grade point average to anyone without prior written
consent of the student. You may refer the
recruiting firm to the University Career Center.
You get a frantic phone call from
an individual who says that he is
a student's father and must get in
touch with her immediately
because of a family emergency.
Can you tell him when and
where her next class is today?

The correct answer is NO
For the safety of the student you cannot
tell another person where a student is at
any time. Inform the caller that s/he should
contact the Division of Student Affairs and
Enrollment Services for assistance.
An unauthorized person
retrieves information from a
computer screen that was left
unattended. Under FERPA, is
the institution responsible?

The correct answer is YES.
Information on a computer screen should
be treated the same as printed reports.
• Please address all comments or questions to
Anjour B. Harris, University Registrar and
Director of Records and Registration at or P.O. Box