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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) FAQs for Parents

Policy Number STU-013
Effective Date December 17, 2007
Responsible Office/Person University Registrar
Related Policies
Additional History
Additional References

Policy Statement
The family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1097 (“FERPA”) is a federal law which states that universities must establish and annually disseminate a written policy that describes the university’s policy and procedures governing student education records and the privacy rights accorded to student education records under FERPA.

Purpose
It is the policy of the University to communicate with parents of students in accordance with the FERPA law.

Please note that the University encourages student’s dependent on their parents to disclose to them academic and other personal information; however, it is the policy of the University not to provide academic and other personal information to parents without the student’s consent. An exception to this policy will be made when the University determines, on the basis of all circumstances, that disclosure to parents is warranted because of compelling academic, health, safety or disciplinary matters. When the University determines that disclosure is warranted, and there is no emergency, students will first be given a reasonable period of time within which to inform their parents and to request that their parents acknowledge such notification by contacting the appropriate University office.

Definitions
UMD accords to its students all rights under FERPA. UMD Student Records Policy is contained in the Student Handbook and available online at:
http://www.umassd.edu/studentaffairs/studenthandbook/

Procedures
Information intended to assist parents to better understand FERPA will be shared in the form of Questions and Answers:

How can I learn how my student is doing?
The best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. Communication with young adults is not always easy. At times, they may be less forthcoming than parents would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.

Does the University have any written policy about information from student records that can be shared with parents?
Yes. Like other colleges and universities across the country, the University is subject t a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called ‘FERPA” or the “Buckley Amendment”). FERPA sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies. The University policy is available in the undergraduate catalog or on line at:

http://www.umassd.edu/studentaffairs/studenthandbook/

Where can I find out more information about FERPA?
FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department maintains a FERPA Website (with links to FERPA regulations) at:
http://www.ed.gov/offices/OM/fpco/ferpa/parents.html

What records does FERPA cover?
The privacy protection FERPA gives to students is very broad. With limited exceptions discussed below, part 99.3 of the FERPA regulations gives privacy protection to all students “education records.” Education records are defined as “(t)hose records that are directly related to a student and (are) (m)aintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.” Examples of student records entitled to FERPA privacy protection and grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files.

What does it mean to say a record is “protected” by FERPA?
Unless personally identifiable information from a student’s education record falls under a specified exception, the information cannot be released to third parties (including parents) without signed and dated written consent from the student.

What are the exceptions to FERPA’s coverage?

There’s a detailed list of exceptions at part 99.3 of the FERPA regulations (“education records” defined) and at 99.31. Perhaps the most important exception allows “disclosure (of information in student education records) to the parents of a dependent student, as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986” (part 99.31 (a) (8). Also, among the records not protected by FERPA are dates of attendance, academic major, and degrees received (see, generally, the University “Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records,” Part II “Directory Information”).

I had easy access to my student’s elementary and secondary school records, why don’t I have the same access to records kept by the University?
Under FERPA, the access rights that parents and legal guardians had in the elementary and secondary school setting is transferred to students, once a student has turned eighteen or is attending any post secondary educational institution. See FERPA regulations section 99.3 (“eligible student” defined) and 99.5 (a) (“rights of students”).

Why do I have limited access to my student’s college records when I’m paying her college expenses?
As a parent or legal guardian you normally can have access to your student’s college records. The best way to do so is with the student’s consent. Nonetheless, if you claim your son or daughter as a dependent for federal tax purposes, the University will give you access to her education records, as specified in FERPA (see part 99.31 (a) (8) and in the University “Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records” (part IV (B) (8). FERPA does not require colleges and universities to grant such parental access. The University does so as a matter of policy.

How do I provide documentation of my student’s dependent status?
Typically, parents will be asked to supply a copy of their most recent federal income tax forms.

How can I find out my student’s grades?
Most parents ask their student directly. Doing so fosters trust, and a sense of mutual responsibility. One convenient approach is to ask your student to give you a parent “COIN” number to access the University’s interactive web service (Internet address). With the COIN you can access your student’s grades, class schedules, student accounts, and unofficial transcripts. Also, as indicated in the answer to question eight, if your student declines to share grade information with you, the Registrar will give you access to his or her grades, if you can demonstrate that you claim the student as a dependent for federal tax purposes.

Will I be notified if my student is put on academic probation, or is subject to academic dismissal?
No. Information about grades and academic standing is sent directly to students. You can, of course, ask your child to keep you informed about his academic performance, and you can gain immediate access to his academic records through use if a parents “COIN.”

Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger?

The University “Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records” and Emergency Notification Policy state that prior consent to disclosure of information from student education records will not be required when notice is made to “(a)ppropriate parties in connection with an emergency, where knowledge of information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. We normally consider parents as “appropriate parties” to notify in such emergencies.

What if my child is hurt or in danger off-campus?

Generally, students are not subjected to our control or supervision when they live and work off-campus. However, if we learn of an emergency involving one of our students, we will attempt to notify the student’s parents or legal guardian, in accordance with our emergency notification policy and procedures. Hospitals and police agencies will also follow their own notification protocols.

Will I be informed if my student is treated at the Office of Health Services or is seeing a counselor in the Counseling Center?

Not normally. In addition to FERPA, state law and professional ethical codes preclude the University from routinely sharing student medical information and counseling records with third parties, including parents, without the students consent. There are important policy reasons supporting these confidentially requirements, including the proven therapeutic benefits associated with encouraging students to talk openly and candidly with a physician or counselor-without fear their conversations will be reported to others. Confidentiality, of course, is not absolute. It can be broken (and parents notified, as appropriate) if staff members in the Health or Counseling Centers determine that a student poses an imminent danger to self or to an identifiable third party.

How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?

The University disciplinary system is administered by the Office of Student Judicial Affairs. Judicial Affairs staff members routinely urge students to inform their parents if they are accused of any disciplinary offense. Students can also authorize release of all the information in their disciplinary files. A copy of the file can then be sent to a parent or legal guardian, upon request.

I’ve seen press reports about a new FERPA provision allowing notice to parents when a student violates drug or alcohol laws. What position has the University taken on this rule?

Part 99.31 (a) (15) (i) of the FERPA regulations authorizes-but does not require-disclose to parents of “the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if (A) Contact may be made with parents/guardians of those students who are under the age of 21, when the student has been fond in violation of the UMD Alcohol & Drug Policy. Contact with the parents of underaged students may be made after the judicial process and time period allotted for an appeal is completely exhausted. Only the specifics regarding the alcohol and/or drug violation will be discussed with the parents/guardians. If there are other violations related to the alcohol and/or drug violation, written permission from the student must be obtained before any specifics about the non-alcohol and/or drug violations can be shared with the parents/guardians. If parent/guardians contacts any university official prior to the completion of the process, written permission from the student must be obtained before specifics about the incident can be shared. In emergency situations, parents/guardians may be contacted prior to the completion of the judicial process.

Responsibility
Who can parents call if they have additional questions about student privacy rights at the University?
Your questions usually can be answered by the department head where the relevant records are kept. Otherwise, we suggest you contact the Registrar’s Office at 508-999-8618.

Attachments
None.

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