Privacy of Student Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) protects the privacy of student education records. The purpose of this act is to afford certain rights to students concerning their education records. The primary rights afforded are:
- the right to inspect and review education records
- the right to seek to have the records amended
- the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from the records
- the right to file a complaint with U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the college to comply with the requirements of FERPA
As college employees, it is the responsibility of all faculty and staff to understand and abide by the rules governing access to and privacy of student records. Before accessing student records, carefully review the material presented on this site. Maintaining confidentiality of student records can be achieved by knowing a few basic requirements of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The official Smith College policy concerning access to and privacy of student records is published annually online in the student handbook.
Click here for a tutorial on FERPA rules & regulations.
Who has FERPA protections?
At colleges and universities, FERPA rights are afforded to the student. There is no age requirement, and FERPA rights begin once a student is enrolled and continue for the life of the student. Rights are not afforded to parents of students; however, parents who claim a student as a dependent may have access to education records unless the student specifically prohibits it.
It is the policy of the college to notify a student and her parents in writing of probationary status, dismissal and certain academic warnings. In communications with parents concerning other matters, it is college policy not to disclose information from student education records without the prior consent of the student. At the request of the student, such information will be provided to parents and guardians.
What are edcuation records?
With certain exceptions, an education record is any record:
- directly related to the student AND
- maintained by the college or any party acting on the part of the college.
A student has the right of access to these records.
Education records include any records in whatever medium (handwritten, print, film, computer media, email, etc.) that are in the possession of any school official. The same principles that apply to paper records also apply to electronic data.
Educational records are not:
- sole possession records or private notes held by school officials and faculty that are not accessible, released or transferred to other personnel
- Public Safety records that are solely for law enforcement purposes and maintained solely by the Office of Public Safety and not shared with other campus officials
- records relating to students who are also employed by the college unless employment is contingent upon enrollment as a student
- health records created and maintained in connection with treatment and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment
- records that contain information obtained only after the individual is no longer a student (i.e. Alumnae records)
Who May Have Access to Education Records?
The college may only release education records if the student has given permision, except under the following circumstances:
- upon receipt of the written consent of the student
- releasing directory information
- to school officials who have a legitimate educational interest, including faculty members who, in order to advise or write a recommendation for a student, require access to a student's record
- to parents of a dependent student as defined by the Internal Revenue code
- in response to a lawfully issued subpoena or court order, as long as the college makes a reasonable attempt to notify the student
- to federal, state, and local authorities involved in an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs
- in conjunction with financial aid, including veteran's benefits
- in a health or safety emergency
- when releasing the results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence
- to parents of students under the age of 21 information relating to violations of drug or alcohol laws or policies by the student