The Office of the Registrar
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Passed by Congress in 1974, the Act grants four specific rights to the eligible student*:
- the right to see the educational records that the institution is keeping on the student
- the right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record
- the right to consent to disclosure of his/her records
- the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office
*Eligible Student: When a student turns 18 years old, or attends a post-secondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parent(s) or guardian(s) to the student. Unless the student releases this information to their parent(s) or guardian(s), this protected information is available exclusively to the student.
The full text of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) can be found on the Department of Education website.
Most information provided by a student or created by an institution for use in educational processes is considered to be part of a student's educational records. This includes, but is not limited to:
- personal information
- enrollment records
- class schedules
- disciplinary records
The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. A student educational record may be:
- an official document on file in a college office
- computer printout from an office
- class list
- data stored in a college maintained information system
Who is Considered a School Official?
A school official is defined as a person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic or support staff position (including campus police, campus health providers, and student employees); a person or company with whom the college has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Regents; a student serving on an official school committee such as the Student Appeals Committee; or a person assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
What Students Should Know About FERPA
- Student educational records may not be released without the written consent of the student or via one of the many exceptions to FERPA.
- Educational Records (including grades, financial information, and disciplinary records) cannot be released to parents, guardians or other interested parties without the specific written permission of the student.
- "Directory Information” can be released without the student's written permission.
- Students who do not wish their “Directory Information” released outside UT Tyler may opt to have their directory information restricted by completing the Directory Information Non-Disclosure Form.
- Students cannot use the right to opt out of directory information to remain anonymous in the classroom, either in person or in a distance education classroom. Nor can a student who has opted out of directory information prevent an institution from requiring him/her to wear, to display publicly, or disclose a student ID card or badge.
What Parents Should Know About FERPA
- When a student turns 18 years old, or enters a post-secondary institution at any age, the rights under FERPA transfer from the parents or guardians to the student.
- Educational records cannot be released to third parties (including parents or guardians) without signed and dated written consent from the student.
- There is 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, but does not require, 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)).
- The best way to gain access to your child’s college records is with their consent. Nonetheless, as indicated above, if you claim your child as a dependent for federal tax purposes and can provide documentation that your child is a dependent, the University may provide access to his/her education records, as specified in FERPA (see part 99.31 (a) (8)) and in the Student Access to Educational Records which states that prior consent to disclosure of information from student educational records will not be required when notice is made to "appropriate parties in connection with an emergency, where knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals."
- Student disciplinary records are also “educational records” as defined under FERPA. The best practice is for your son or daughter to inform you about any disciplinary charges or sanctions directly. Students can also authorize release of information from their disciplinary files. Upon consent from the student, information from the file may then be discussed with a parent or legal guardian.
What University Officials Should Know About FERPA
As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession, as well as to avoid disclosure of students' FERPA-protected non-Directory information to unauthorized third parties. You have access to students' non-directory information only for legitimate use in completion of your responsibilities as a university employee; "Need to know" is the basic principle. If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar for clarification.
Below is a brief list of items that faculty members must refrain from to maintain FERPA compliance:
- Use of the Social Security Number and/or UT Tyler Student Identification Number, or linking a student's SSN/UT Tyler ID to their name in any way, in any public posting. This includes announcements made within Canvas, other forums/sites, bulletin boards, or any other digital or physical location accessible to other students or third parties.
- Circulating attendance rosters or sign-up sheets that include students' SSNs, UT Tyler ID numbers, grades, or any other non-Directory data items.
- Exposing students' grades to their classmates by leaving graded tests or assignments in a stack for students to sort through, allowing students to distribute graded materials to their classmates, or otherwise publicly posting grades.
- Discussing the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents or guardians) without the consent of the student, unless you can confirm the student has dependent status.
- Providing anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose.
- Providing anyone with student schedules or assisting anyone other than University employees in finding a student on campus.
If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar.