FERPA for Families

A quick-reference guide for parents and families to help understand FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) also known as the Buckley amendment, passed by Congress in 1974, grants four specific rights to students:

  • The right to inspect and review their educational records.
  • The right to request the amendment of inaccurate or otherwise inappropriate records.
  • The right to consent to disclosure of his or her public records.
  • The right to file a complaint concerning alleged failure by Montclair State University to comply with the requirements of FERPA with the Family Compliance Office in the United States' Department of Education.

FERPA and Parent’s Access to their student’s Education Records:
When the student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution at any age, FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student. FERPA applies to students attending any educational program at Montclair State University. Students are granted rights under FERPA if they are currently attending or have been in attendance, regardless whether in a credit, no-credit, degree or non-degree credit program. FERPA does not apply to applicants of a school or college at Montclair State University who have been admitted but who have not actually been in attendance.

What are education records?
An education record is any record that is directly related to a student and maintained by the university. A student has the right of access to these records. Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, email, print, magnetic tape, film, diskette, etc.) that is in the possession of any school official. This includes transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.
 
What are not education records?

  • Sole possession records or private notes held by school officials that are not accessible or release to other personnel,
  • Law enforcement or campus security that is solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the law enforcement unit,
  • Records relating solely to an individual’s employment by the institution that are not available for any other purpose,
  • Records relating to treatment provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or paraprofessional and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment,
  • Records of an institution that contain only information about an individual obtained after that person is no longer a student, i.e., alumni records,
  • Grades on peer-graded papers that have not been collected and recorded.

What is directory information?
Institutions may disclose the following student information without violating FERPA if the student has not restricted disclosure.

  • name
  • e-mail address
  • address (local & home)
  • telephone number (local, mobile and home)
  • college/school and curriculum
  • enrollment status and credit hour load
  • dates of attendance
  • classification
  • receipt or non-receipt of a degree
  • academic awards received (dean’s list, honors students)
  • participation in officially recognized activities
  • sports photograph
  • position, weight, and height of athletes

What rights do students have under FERPA?

  • The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of their request
  • The right to consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education records
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of education concerning alleged failures to comply with FERPA

What is a Legitimate Educational Interest?
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.
 
Public Posting of Grades
The public posting of grades, either by the student’s name, institutional student identification number, or social security number is a violation of FERPA. Using an assigned random number that only the student and instructor know would be an appropriate way to post grades. Even then, the order of posting should not be alphabetic.

Letters of Recommendation
Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person’s personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student who is the subject of the recommendation. However, if the personally identifiable information obtained from a student’s education record is included in a letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which:

  • Specifies the records that may be disclosed,
  • States the purpose of the disclosure and,
  • Identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.

Since the letter of recommendation would be part of the student’s education record, the student has the right to read it - unless he/she has waived that right of access.

Exceptions to FERPA Non-Release Regulations:

  • Health and Safety
    Institutions may take into consideration circumstances pertaining to the health and safety of a student or other individuals to disclose information from education records without a student’s consent. If the institution determines there is “articulable and significant threat” to the health and safety of the student or others, information from education records can be release “to any person whose knowledge of the situation is necessary to protect” the health and safety of the student or other individuals.
  • Dependent Student Status
    Under FERPA, schools may release any and all information to parents, without the consent of the eligible student, if the student is a dependent for tax purposes under the IRS rules.
  • Alcohol
    Schools may inform parents if the student who is under age 21 has violated any law or its policy concerning the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.
  • Outstanding and Access to Education Records
    Institutions are allowed to disclose education records without the student’s consent to contractors, volunteers, and other non-employees performing institutional services and functions.

For a full description of FERPA please visit:  montclair.edu/student-development-campus-life/ferpa/

Or visit the U.S. Department of Education at:  www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/ps-officials.html