For those teaching in the US what can and cannot be released to people other than students (e.g., parents!) is detailed in a guideline referred to as “FERPA,” The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The short is, you can’t tell anyone but the student anything. As a dean I can tell you that parents are not often happy to hear that (“but I pay the bills!”). The truth is there is more than can be disclosed but of course we want to err on the side of caution. I recently learned, for example, that “full access to their student’s academic record will be provided if the parent first provides proof of dependency.” Since most of our students’ parents submit a IRS Form 1040 for financial aid purposes those parents thus will have a right access their student’s records. More on the update to the FERPA guidelines:
Dec. 9, 2008 – InsideHigherEd.com
Rules Seek to Clarify FERPA
In an update of key federal privacy rules, http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2008/E8-28864.htm the U.S. Education Department is trying to tell colleges what they can release about students, not just what they can’t release.
The rules — published in today’s Federal Register — update the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, which generally bars the release of educational records by colleges without students’ permission.
But the law, known as FERPA, has taken on a life of its own. According to many experts, FERPA is cited regularly by colleges to avoid releasing information that’s not even covered by it. In the wake of the Virginia Tech killings, there has been renewed interest in clarifying what colleges and schools may release — and in many instances the new regulations appear to be reassuring colleges that FERPA only goes so far, and that they do have discretion to release certain kinds of records.
For example, the new regulations state explicitly that in the case of a health or safety emergency, a college can disclose information about students without their permission. While the rules require some justification for such release, they make clear that the protections on student privacy are not absolute.
Rather, the final rules say, the idea is to find “the right balance between student privacy and campus safety.” The rules specifically affirm the value of notification, noting with appreciation some responses to earlier drafts that thanked the department for seeing that notifying parents and others of certain situations may help protect the safety and health of all involved.
See full story at: http://insidehighered.com/news/2008/12/09/ferpa
2 thoughts on “FERPA for Fun! (Note for those teaching in US higher ed)”
I saw this today and my first thought was if the phenomenon of the helicopter parent will probably get worse? Think that will happen? I am sure that you have to deal with this kind of parental interference this time of year. I know my supervisor does. It’s appeal-o-rama time in higher ed.
I don’t know that it will make it worse but this time of year (and just before the beginning of the next semester, when grades have come in) my schedule includes a fair number of tough conversations.