Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that limits the disclosure of a student’s education records. The purpose of FERPA is to protect the privacy of students and to ensure that students have access to their own records. University of Mississippi employees responding to requests for student information must be aware of the protected status of such information. Employees must not provide requested information to third parties unless the student consents to the release or unless FERPA specifically permits the release of the information without consent.
Under FERPA, a student’s records are presumed to be private and may not be disclosed to the public without the student’s consent. A “student” is defined as a person who has attended an educational institution at any time and with respect to whom the institution maintains educational records or personally identifiable information. In order to safeguard the privacy of the information, rights derived from FERPA vest in the student who has either attained eighteen years of age or who is attending an institution of postsecondary education (regardless of age).
As defined by FERPA, an “education record” is any material that contains information directly related to a student and is maintained by an educational institution or someone acting on its behalf. This includes, but is not limited to grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary records. Generally, it does not include records maintained by a law enforcement unit within an educational institution that were created by the unit for the purpose of law enforcement or records maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional maintained in connection with the provision of treatment to the student.
Unless specifically advised to the contrary by a student, certain information, referred to as “directory information”, may be released and made public without a student’s permission. The University of Mississippi must give students notice of what the institution considers directory information and an opportunity to object to disclosure of all or part of the proposed directory information. Generally, directory information consists of such items as:
- the name, address (including e-mail) and published telephone number of a student
- the date and place of birth
- the student’s major field of study
- the dates of attendance at the educational institution
- the degrees and awards received
- participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- weight and height of members of athletic teams
- the most recent or previous educational agency or institution attended.
In general, a student has the right to review his or her record, except for the following documents that may be in the student’s record: his or her parents’ financial records, certain confidential letters of recommendation, and information about another individual. The University of Mississippi must remove such information before providing the records to the student, unless it obtains consent from the subject of the information or from the author of the letters of recommendation.
Students may consent through an online form in their My Ole MIss account under “Access for Relative/Guardians”. By completing and submitting this form, a student gives permission for educational records and information to be disclosed to a parent, guardian, or other designated individual(s). Designated individuals who wish to obtain information about a students current academic progress should contact the office of the academic dean. Staff members in the dean’s office will assist them in obtaining the information they request. Other requests for information should be directed to the relevant department, such as the Registrar’s Office, the Bursar’s Office or the Office of Financial Aid.
FERPA allows the University of Mississippi to disclose student education records without the student’s consent in limited circumstances. Examples include disclosure to:
- Officials at the educational institution with a legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools at which the student seeks admission or intends to enroll;
- Organizations conducting studies on behalf of the institution (if certain criteria are satisfied);
- Accrediting organizations;
- Parents of a dependent student (as defined by the Internal Revenue Code);
- A person who obtains a judicial order or subpoena directing release of the information;
- Appropriate individuals during a health or safety emergency;
- A person requesting directory information;
- An alleged victim of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense committed by a student regarding the results of any disciplinary action; and
- The parents of a student disciplined for certain drug or alcohol offenses if the student is under 21 years of age.
The University of Mississippi must maintain a record of disclosures as part of the education record of each student. This record must contain the names of all individuals, agencies, or organizations that have requested or obtained access to the student’s records and the legitimate educational interest of those accessing the information.
Under FERPA, a university student also has the right to challenge information in his or her education records in order to ensure that the records are not inaccurate or misleading. A student has a right to a hearing if he is dissatisfied with the outcome of the challenge.