FERPA (Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of records and the access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.
Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:
- Sole possession records such as records or notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record. (This might include notes an instructor makes while providing career or professional guidance to a student.)
- Medical treatment records that include but are not limited to records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists and psychologists.
- Employment records when employment is not contingent on being a student, provided the record is used only in relation to the individual's employment.
- Records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit used only for only that purpose and revealed only to law enforcement agencies of the same jurisdiction, as long as the enforcement unit does not have access to education records.
- Post-attendance records such as information about a person obtained when the person was no longer a student (e.g., alumni records) and does not relate to the person as a student.
ACCESS TO STUDENT EDUCATION RECORDS
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student are:
- Birth date
- Religious affiliation
- Disciplinary status
- Grade point average (GPA)
- Marital status
- SSN and student I.D. number
- Grades and exam scores
- Test scores (such as SAT, GRE, etc.)
- Progress reports such as STARS
The university will not release personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son’s or daughter's education records unless the student has provided written authorization permitting the parents' access. Exceptions are noted in the university's policy (located in the Office of the General Counsel and in the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs) concerning the privacy of student education records and include: access by "school officials" the institution has determined to have a "legitimate educational interest;" access by school officials at other schools where the student seeks to enroll; access for the purpose of awarding financial aid; and subpoenas.
At USC these terms are defined below:
"University official" is any person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position, a person elected to the Board of Trustees, a student serving on an official university committee, or a person employed by or under contract to the university to perform a specific task.
A "university official" has a "legitimate educational interest" whenever he or she is performing a task specified in his or her position, description, or by a contract agreement; performing a task related to a student's education; performing a task related to the discipline of a student; providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family (such as health care, counseling, job placement or financial aid); or disclosure of information in response to a judicial order or legally issued subpoena. (NOTE: At USC all subpoenas are first reviewed by the Office of General Counsel to determine an appropriate response.)
STUDENT'S RIGHT TO REVIEW AND/OR CORRECT HIS OR HER RECORDS
Students and former students have rights to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; and the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student's education record provided such refusal does not limit access.
Limitations exist on students' rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:
- Financial information submitted by parents.
- Education records containing information about more than one student. (However, the institution must permit access to that part of the records that pertains only to the inquiring student.)
- Confidential letters and recommendations placed in the student's file before January 1, 1975.
- Confidential letters and statements of recommendation, placed in the records after January 1, 1975, to which the student has waived his or her right to review and that are related to the student's admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors. Upon a request from a student, he or she will be notified of the names of the persons making the recommendations and that such recommendations cannot be used other than for their intended purposes.
Students may request that their education records be amended if they believe such information is inaccurate, misleading or in violation of privacy rights. Students must request in writing that the office that maintains those records amend them. Students should identify the part of the records they want corrected and specify why they believe it is inaccurate, misleading or in violation of privacy rights.
That office will review the request and inform the students of the action taken, in a reasonable amount of time after receiving the request. If the records custodian refuses to amend the record, students have the right to a hearing. A hearing officer appointed by the Vice President for Student Affairs will conduct the hearing. The hearing will be held within a reasonable amount of time after the request for the hearing has been received. The hearing officer will notify the student, reasonably in advance, of the date, place and time of the hearing.
Students will be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issue raised. One or more other persons, including an attorney, may accompany the student. The hearing officer and/or board will make its decision in writing based upon the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for the decision.
If the hearing officer and/or board supports the complaint, the education record will be amended accordingly and the student will be so informed. If the hearing officer and/or board decides not to amend the education record, students have the right to place in the education record a statement commenting on the challenged information and/or stating the reasons for disagreement with the decision. This statement will be maintained as part of the education record as long as the contested portion of the record is maintained, and whenever a copy of the education record is sent to any party, the student's statement will be included.
TYPES, LOCATIONS, AND CUSTODIANS OF EDUCATION RECORDS
|School of Dentistry
DEN-216 MC 0641
|Registrar, Dental School|
|Registrar, School of Medicine||Keith Administration Building|
LAW 300 MC 0071
|Registrar, Law Center|
|Registration & Records
|Financial Aid Records||Admission/Financial Aid
JHH 340 MC 0911
|Financial Records||Financial Services
UGB 203 MC 8002
|Health Records||Student Health Center
ESH MC 3261
|Director, Patient Care|
|Student Conduct Records||Student Judicial Affairs and|
Community Standards Office
STU 206 MC 4894
DIRECTORY OR PUBLIC INFORMATION
FERPA has specifically identified certain information called directory information that may be disclosed without student consent. Although directory information may be disclosed without student consent, USC is not required to release directory information.
USC has designated the following information as directory information and may release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:
- Address (local and permanent)
- Telephone number (local and permanent)
- University email address
- Student photo
- USC attendance dates
- USC degrees earned (with dates)
- Academic honors
- Major, minor and degree objective
- Expected date of graduation
- Previous schools attended
- Enrollment status (class level)
- Currently enrolled (Y/N)
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
RESTRICTING RELEASE OF DIRECTORY INFORMATION
According to FERPA, a student can request that the institution not release directory information about her. Students who wish to restrict the release of their information must submit an email with "Request To Restrict Directory Information" in the subject line. The email request must originate from the student’s USC email account. In the request, the student must specifically state whether to:
- restrict the listing of his or her information on the university’s student directory, which is available only to USC students, faculty, and staff
- restrict the release of their information to any inquirer (for example: current enrollment at USC, class level, major, expected graduation date, degrees earned)
- or both (remove student’s listing on the USC student directory AND refuse to provide any information about the student to an inquirer)
Students who request that USC restricts the release of their information acknowledge that their names will not appear in the commencement bulletin and other university publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and the like will be denied any of the student's information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student's attendance at USC.
ANNUAL NOTIFICATION TO STUDENTS
Consistent with its obligations under FERPA, USC annually notifies students of the rights accorded them by FERPA.
USC students are notified of their FERPA rights in SCampus.
The notification must inform students that they have the following rights:
Students have three primary rights under FERPA. They have the rights to inspect and review their education records; have some control over the disclosure of information from their education record; and seek to amend their education records, under certain circumstances. These rights are described in detail in SCampus.
All faculty and staff, as well as any other agents of the university who request access to student academic records, must complete the FERPA tutorial and submit a signed acknowledgement form. Access to student records, including the academic records database, will be denied until the tutorial has been completed and the form submitted. The tutorial is intended to ensure that anyone accessing student records understands the obligations under FERPA for proper use and protection of student records. All questions in the tutorial are supported by information found in this website. Before you begin the tutorial you should review all the topics found on the FERPA homepage.
The tutorial will take approximately 10 to 15 minutes to complete. To begin the tutorial, click here.
FILING A COMPLAINT
If a parent or eligible student feels that the institution has not fully honored his or her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue Southwest, Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.
The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine if the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.