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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - A Summary

Policy and Procedures

The 1975 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and subsequent legislation allow present and former students at educational institutions access to education records kept on them, as well as basic protections of privacy of their records. The law does not apply to applicants seeking admission to the University. "Education records" are defined as records which are: "(1) Directly related to a student; and (2) maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution." The law specifically exempts personal records kept by instructional, supervisory, and administrative staff, as long as those records are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a substitute; records of a law enforcement unit of an educational agency or institution created by the members of the unit for law enforcement purposes; records of employees of an educational institution; and records which are created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional, and which are created, maintained or used only in connection with the treatment of the student.

The law specifically grants the following rights of access to students:

1. The right to inspect and review the content of the student's personal education records;

2. The right to obtain copies of those records when a) failure to provide such copies would effectively prevent the student from exercising the right to inspect and review his/her education records; b) when the student has submitted his/her written consent to allow the University to disclose certain personally identifiable information from the student's education record, and the student requests a copy of the information to be disclosed; and c) when the University transfers the student's education records to another educational institution, and a copy of those records is requested by the student.

The University will continue to provide copies of the transcript upon written request and payment of a nominal fee. Departments will provide copies of a student's departmental education records to a student upon his/her written request. The student may be charged for the cost of reproducing those records.

3. The right to a response from the institution to a reasonable request for explanations and interpretations of those records;

4. The right to an opportunity for a hearing to challenge the content of those records;

5. If the education record of a student includes information on more than one student, the right to inspect or review only that part of the material or document which relates to such student.

The University develops and maintains several types and varieties of education records on students. A list of what types of records are maintained by the University, where they are kept, what University official has major responsibility for those records, who has access to those records and why, and what it will cost you to obtain a copy of those records, is available for inspection in the following locations:

Dean of Students Office

227 Whitmore Administration Building

Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Office

362 Whitmore Administration Building

A complete copy of the University's procedures and policies regarding the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is available for inspection at either of the offices listed above.

Access to Records

Students can request to see any of their education records covered and defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. The request to see records is to be made at the specific department which maintains those records.

If possible, immediate access will be allow-ed to an individual's records. In any case, the department must allow access to a file within 45 calendar days.

The law permits the University to release and/or publish, without students' permission, directory information. This is defined as student's name, local address, home address, major, local telephone number, e-mail address, date and place of birth, acknowledgment of a student's participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, date(s) of attendance, degree, certificates, awards received, the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student, and the dollar amount of money earned on the state or trust payroll. Students who do not wish to have their directory information released may contact the Dean of Students Office.

Other Rights and Requirements of this Legislation

In addition to the above, the law sets forth other rights and requirements regarding education records maintained on students:

1. The University cannot require nor attempt to influence students to waive any rights granted under this legislation, as a condition of admission, receipt of financial aid, or receipt of any other services or benefits.

2. Parents' financial records and related parental financial information shall not be released to students unless authorized by the parents. Any institutional office maintaining such records shall either store such records in a file separate from records subject to review or conspicuously stamp such records "Confidentialónot to be released to student."

Confidential letters and confidential statements of recommendation of students placed in education records prior to January 1, 1975, need not be released to students provided that such letters and recommendations are being used only for the purpose for which they were specifically intended. All other education re-cords of a particular student shall be open for inspection by that student unless access is restricted as follows:

A student may waive his/ her right of access to evaluations and recommendations submitted on or after January 1, 1975, provided however, that the student must, upon request, be notified of the name of each person who has submitted such a confidential evaluation or recommendation; such evaluations and recommendations to be used only for the purpose intended; and a waiver may not be required as a precondition of admission to the institution or receipt from the institution of financial aid or any other services or benefits.

3. The University will not permit access to or release of a student's education records, and personally identifiable information contained therein to third parties, without the student's written consent, except:

a) To other University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in a student's record. The University defines "University officials" as any professional employee who is head of an office, department, school, college, or division, or their specified designee. "Legitimate educational interest" is defined as academic status check or evaluations, research, curriculum evaluation or development, institutional/statistical evaluation and analysis, student placement, and admission evaluation;

b) To authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Secretary of Education, or state educational authorities, or officials of other educational institutions in which the student seeks to enroll;

c) In connection with a student's application for, or receipt of, financial aid, provided that personally identifiable information may be disclosed only as may be necessary for such purposes as:

1) to determine the eligibility of the student for financial aid;

2) to determine the amount of financial aid;

3) to determine the conditions which will be imposed regarding the financial aid; or

4) to enforce the terms or conditions of the financial aid;

d) To state and local officials to whom such information is specifically granted or allowed under state statutes;

e) To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational institutions for the purposes of developing, validating, or administering predictive tests, student aid programs, and improving instruction, provided that the identity of students is not revealed to other than representatives of such organizations;

f) To recognized accrediting organizations carrying out their accrediting functions;

g) In compliance with a judicial order, or pursuant to any lawfully issued subpoena, provided that the University makes a reasonable effort to notify the student of the order or subpoena in advance of compliance therewith;

h) In connection with an emergency situation, if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student or other persons;

i) When the disclosure is to an alleged victim of any crime of violence of the results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against the alleged perpetrator of the crime with respect to that crime; and

j) When the disclosure is to teachers and University officials and officials at other schools, of information concerning disciplinary action taken against the student for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of the student or other members of the University community.

4. The University must maintain a record, to be kept with the education records of each student, which will indicate all parties, other than those specified above, who have requested or obtained access to a student's record, and the legitimate interest that such parties have in obtaining such information. This record will be available only to the student, the University personnel records, and persons and organizations listed in 3, above.

5. Third parties may not receive information from student's education records unless and until a student requests in writing that these records be released. Records will be transmitted with the statement that they are being sent under the continuing restrictions of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

6. The University must make public notice of the categories which it determines to be directory information, and allow a reasonable period of time for a student to inform the University that any or all of the information designated should not be released without his/ her consent.

7. A person may file a written complaint regarding violations of this Act or its regulations with: Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Ave., SW, Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.

This summary of the legislation is provided in the Undergraduate Catalog in compliance with the Act. Complete FERPA regulations for the Amherst campus of the University are available in the Dean of Students Office, 227 Whitmore Administration Building.