This tutorial is designed to give you a basic understanding of the rules governing release of student information at Dominican University. For more information, or consultation regarding specific situations, you may contact the Office of the Registrar
at ext. 6774.
What is the federal law regarding student records?
The "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" (referred to as FERPA and sometimes called the Buckley Amendment) was passed by Congress in 1974. FERPA and its regulations establish:
A student's right to inspect and review educational records that an educational institution is keeping on the student;
A student's right to challenge the content of his or her records;
A student's right to limit disclosure of his/her records;
The institution's obligation to notify students of their rights under FERPA and its regulations;
Recourse for students and the federal government when an educational institution violates the Act or regulations by improperly disclosing a student's personally identifiable information from the records.
What is an educational record?
Just about any information directly related to a student and maintained by Dominican University or by a person acting for the University is considered a student educational record. Any record related directly to a student should be held in confidence.
Examples of educational records include:
- grades / transcripts
- student schedules
- names of students' advisors
- papers / student thesis / tests
- records of student discipline
- personal information such as social security number, age, parent's name
Educational records are not:
- sole possession records (not accessible or revealed to any other person)
- law enforcement records, as defined in FERPA
- employment records
- medical records
- post-attendance records
The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. A student educational record may be:
- a document in the Office of the Registrar or Financial Services
- a computer printout in your office
- a class list on your desktop
- video or audio tape
- notes you have taken during an advising session
- computer media (printed e-mails, e.g.)
Also see separate document Dominican University Notice for Directory Information.
What are the basic rules?
Student educational records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student. As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession.
Some information is considered public (called "Directory Information"). This information can be released without the student's written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential as well and it will be flagged as such in the student's record if the option is elected. Dominican University identifies the following as directory information: student’s name, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, address (home, local, e-mail), telephone listings, weight and height of members of athletic teams, photograph/video for University and other publications, degrees, honors, and awards received, date of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, current enrollment status, the most recent educational agency or institution attended, class standing, and schedule of classes. Therefore, you may (but are not required to) release this "Directory Information" without consent.
You have access to non-directory information educational records only for legitimate use to discharge your responsibilities as a Dominican University employee. "Need to know" is the basic principle.
Parents of students do not have automatic rights (as they did in elementary and secondary school); however, if the student is a dependent (as defined by the IRS) we may release records information unless the student has indicated otherwise. In general, it is a good idea to check with the Registrar before releasing information to any third party unless you have obtained written permission of the student. If you see the word "Confidential" next to a name there is some restriction in place and you must contact the Registrar before releasing any information.
If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar at 708-524-6774 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:
use the Social Security Number or ID number of a student in a public posting of grades or link the name of a student with that student's social security or ID number in any public manner;
leave graded tests, papers, or lab reports in a publicly accessible place for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of other students;
circulate a printed class list with student name and ID number or grades as an attendance roster;
discuss the progress or the educational record information of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student or verifying that the student has granted access to the third party by contacting the Office of the Registrar;
provide anyone outside Dominican University with lists of students enrolled in classes;
provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than Dominican employees in finding a student on campus;
request information from the educational record without a legitimate educational interest and the appropriate authority to do so;
share student educational record information, including grades or grade point averages, with other faculty or staff members of the University unless their official responsibilities identify their "legitimate educational interest" in that information for that student.
WHEN IN DOUBT, err on the side of caution and do not release student educational information. Contact the Office of the Registrar for guidance at ext. 6774.
You have completed the informational section of the tutorial. Please refer to the FERPA Quiz to test your knowledge about FERPA.