FAMILY EDUCAITON RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT OF 1974
Recommendations and letters of reference: Any letter of recommendation or reference for graduate school, employment, or other purpose written after January l, 1975, will be available for inspection by the student concerned, and faculty and administrators should understand this clearly. Forms used by the Career Development and Placement Office and the Admission Office now state that student access will be granted, unless a waiver form has been signed by the student. Letters written before January l, 1975, will still be honored as confidential, since that was the understanding at the time of writing.
The revised Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA II) exposes educational institutions to loss of funds administered by the U.S. Commissioner of Education if they do not comply with the records protection policies mandated by Congress. The new law, as enacted on November 19, 1974, and amended on December 31, 1974, transfers to college students of any age whatever rights the legislation may confer on parents of younger students. The following analysis is presented in terms of direct effect and implications for Wittenberg University
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE ACT
Definition of student: Any person who is now attending or has attended Wittenberg University, but not individuals who have applied for admission and have been rejected.
Definition of record: Within 45 days of receiving a request Wittenberg University must allow students to inspect their "education records" which are defined as records, files, documents, and other materials which contain information directly related to a student, and are maintained by Wittenberg or by a person acting for Wittenberg. Procedures for this inspection have been established by the respective administrative offices.
Records unavailable to students: Materials not available to student access are: (1) financial records of parents, such as Parents' Confidential Statements (PCS) and certified copies of income tax returns; (2) confidential letters of evaluation and recommendations placed in education records prior to January l, 1975, if such letters or statements are not used for purposes other than those for which they were specifically intended; and (3) after January l, 1975, confidential recommendations concerning admission to Wittenberg, applications for employment, or receipt of an honor or recognition if the student has signed a waiver of access.
What is not an education record: (1) Personal notes of faculty and administrators, provided they are not available to any third party except a faculty member's substitute; (2) law enforcement records (including Campus Security records) provided they are kept separate from education records, are for law enforcement purposes only, and are only available to other law enforcement officials at Wittenberg; (3) Employment records of people who are employed but not enrolled at Wittenberg; (4) Records of professional staff, such as physicians, psychologists, or other professionals, Student Development staff, or paraprofessionals used in treatment of a student, are not available to anyone except those providing the treatment. Those records may be reviewed by a physician or other professional of the student's choice. Access to each student's personal file in Student Development will continue to be restricted to the Student Development staff, and a student may review the file upon request.
Challenge hearings: Students have the right for an opportunity to challenge the content of their educational records and to secure correction of inaccurate or misleading entries. A student may insert into the records a written explanation respecting the content of such records, but may challenge a course grade only on the ground that it was inaccurately recorded, not that it was lower than the faculty member ought to have awarded. Procedures for a hearing have been established.
Directory information may be unconditionally released to any person without a student's prior consent. This information includes a student's name, address, telephone number, e-mail address, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, and the most recent educational institution attended by the student. Notice of information being released is published in the Student Handbook.
Access to records without student consent is available to faculty and administrators, with legitimate educational interest as defined by Wittenberg. Information may be transferred by Wittenberg to another institution in which the student seeks to enroll, and in connection with a student's application for or receipt of financial aid. Parents of students who are dependents for income tax purposes are eligible to inspect their dependent student's records.
Personally identifiable information is explicitly included under the FERPA regulations. This information includes, but is not limited to:
- the student's name;
- the name of the student's parent or other family member;
- the address of the student or student's family;
- a personal identifier, such as the student's social security number or student ID number;
- a list of personal characteristics that would make the student's identity easily traceable; or
- other information that would make the student's identity easily traceable.
The effect of their inclusion is to prohibit the use of social security numbers or ID numbers or other such personal identifiers as a means of publicly posting grades, test results, or other confidential information.
WITTENBERG EDUCATION RECORDS
The Registrar as of November 19, 1974, limited access to the permanent academic record, student folder, and master academic file to Registrar's Office personnel, except that release of transcripts and access to the student's folder, without purpose of release being stated, may be made to academic deans, faculty advisers, current instructors, designated Student Development staff, designated Admissions staff, designated Financial Aid staff, and the Provost. Access logs will be kept separately by the Registrar for student folders and permanent academic records.
Students register with the Career Services by filing a Senior Placement Packet. This file may include a personal resume, College Interview Resume Form, recommendations, transcripts, and other data at the student's request. Students have complete access to their placement files unless waiver forms specifying that recommendations and/or other items be kept confidential have been signed. A record of where placement information has been sent will be kept in the file. Information is sent only at the student's request, unless the student signs this waiver: "I hereby authorize the Career Development and Placement Office to release my resume and other related placement credentials contained in this file (including recommendations) to any prospective employer at the request of the employer, myself, or upon referral by the Office for the purpose of furthering its efforts to assist me in securing employment. I understand that this information will not be released to private employment agencies." Students may inspect and review their placement files and obtain copies of information in the file, but at their own expense. File material may be deleted by a student, and a student may also request specifically which information she/he wishes to be released.
While there are several areas in this legislation which are unclear, Wittenberg is making a good-faith effort to comply utilizing standards of reasonableness. A copy of the amended text and H.E.W. regulations printed in the Federal Register of January 6, 1975, is available in the Student Services Office for your possible further interest. Specific questions about detailed procedures in various administrative offices should be directed to the responsible administrator.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. They are:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the university receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The university official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the university official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading. Students may ask the university to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the university official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the university decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the university will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additionally information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the university has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. Upon request, the university discloses education records without consent to officials of another school, upon request, in which a student seeks or intends to enroll .
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the university to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is: