The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

What is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) [full text of Title 34, Part 99] is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student records. Established in 1974 with significant regulatory changes and clarifications in 2008, FERPA defines and regulates three types of information, each of which is subject to different policies.

 Student Records

In general, student records are confidential [see 34.99.31], with access limited to a) students themselves and b) school officials and teachers who have a “legitimate educational interest,” unless permission is explicitly granted by the parent or students. Students who are enrolled in higher education classes, who are under 18, maintain privacy of their records from their parents or legal guardians unless the student gives permission.

Directory Information

Directory (aka public) information is an exception to the general rule and not assumed confidential provided that students have a) been informed about such information, and b) been provided adequate time to request that such information not be disclosed (at UA this is known as a “directory hold”).

Directory information includes, but is not limited to [see 34.99.3] the following, with additions that may be defined by the educational institution, student’s:

  • name and address
  • telephone listing
  • email address
  • photograph
  • date and place of birth
  • major field of study
  • dates of attendance, grade level, and enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate; full-time or part-time)
  • participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • degrees, honors and awards received
  • the most recent educational agency or institution attended

Publicly Identifiable Information

The third area of protected information is Publicly Identifiable Information (PII) and includes family and other personal information not exempted by the exceptions for directory information and [34.99.3]:

  • the student’s Biometric record, meaning “a record of one or more measurable biological or behavioral characteristics that can be used for automated recognition of an individual. Examples include fingerprints; retina and iris patterns; voiceprints; DNA sequence; facial characteristics; and handwriting.”
  • a personal identifier, such as the student’s social security number, student number, or biometric record;
  • other indirect identifiers, such as mother’s maiden name;
  • other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty;
  • information requested by a person who the educational agency or institution reasonably believes knows the identity of the student to whom the education record relates.

A FERPA release for can be found here.

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