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Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act

What you, as a parent, need to know

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that applies to educational agencies and institutions that receive funding under a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education. Under FERPA, schools must generally afford students who are 18 years or older, or attending a postsecondary institution such as Marymount University, some control over the disclosure of information from educational records. These records include, but are not limited to, housing records, student conduct files, student account balances, and grades. Accordingly, Marymount University is prohibited from disclosing any information pertaining to the student’s record without receiving a signed and dated consent form from the student. Please note, in order to protect the various student records that exist, there is no blanket waiver for the entire University. In order for the Office of Campus and Residential Services (OCRS) to release housing and/or student conduct records, the student must complete the consent form in OCRS office.

Do colleges and universities have any written policy about information from student records that can be shared with parents?
Yes, institutions of higher education are subject to 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 colleges and universities to publish compliance statements, including all related institutional policies.

Where can I find out more information about FERPA?
FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department maintains a website with links to FERPA regulations. You can also review the Marymount University Student Handbook.

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 to all students “educational records.” Education records are defined as “those records that are directly related to a student and are maintained 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 are grade reports, transcripts, housing files, and most disciplinary files, among others.

What protections does FERPA give to students concerning their records?
  • Right to inspect and review educational records
  • Right to request to amend educational records
  • Right to have some control over the disclosure of information from educational records ("Personally Identifiable Information" or information that would directly identify the student or make the person’s identity easily traceable)
What does FERPA require of colleges and universities?
A university must notify students annually of their rights (typically via the student handbook), and agree to give students the opportunity to limit the disclosure of personally identifiable information annually (such as information contained in a student directory). Also, colleges and universities are required to
  • Protect students' rights to inspect and review records
  • Protect students' rights to request to amend records
  • Protect students' rights to limit disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in education records
  • Ensure that authorized third parties do not redistribute personally identifiable information, except under a few circumstances
  • Maintain records of requests for and disclosures of student education records
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 a signed and dated written release from the student.

There appears to be many exceptions to FERPA release of records. Do any apply to parents and guardians?
  • In cases where there is an alleged victim, the final results of a disciplinary hearing regarding an incident alleged to involve acts of violence, or a forcible or non-forcible sex offense is disclosed to the victim (disclosure required)
  • To the public, the final results of a disciplinary hearing against an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense (disclosure permitted, not required) (Foley Amendment)
  • To parents/legal guardians of students under 21, if students are found to have violated the alcohol or drug policy of the institution (disclosure permitted) (Warner Amendment)
How can I learn how my student is doing?
The best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. Communicating with young adults isn't always easy. They are not often as forthcoming as we 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.

I had easy access to my student’s high 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 are transferred to students, once a student has turned 18 or is attending any postsecondary educational institution.

Why do I have limited access to my student's college records when I'm paying the college expenses?
Student records are confidential. As a parent or legal guardian you must have a signed release from your student to access your student's college records. FERPA does not require colleges and universities to grant such parental access.

My student is a dependent. I should be able to see his/her records at will!
FERPA allows universities and colleges to decide individually if they will release or share information concerning students under the age of 18 (minors). Marymount University does not differentiate between under and over 18 years of age with regards to protecting student records.

Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger?
FERPA does allow for an exception in emergency situations. There are also exceptions if your student is a threat or danger to others.

How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?
Student disciplinary records are protected under FERPA. The best practice is for your student to inform you about any disciplinary charges directly. Students can also authorize release of all the information in their disciplinary files. A Marymount University staff member can then discuss the file with a parent or legal guardian. (Please note: to protect others who may be involved, the file will be adjusted to protect personally identifiable information of other involved students.) Marymount University staff routinely advise students verbally and in writing to notify parents about any pending disciplinary charges.

I've heard about changes in FERPA allowing notice to the public if a student commits a crime of violence. What policies have colleges and universities adopted regarding this new provision?
This recent change in FERPA permits – but does not require – release of final results of campus disciplinary proceedings (reached on or after October 7, 1998) regarding specified crimes of violence or non-forcible sex offenses, as provided in part 99.31 (a) (14) {i} of the FERPA regulations. Consistent with other FERPA requirements, the college or university MAY make public, upon request, the identity of individuals suspended or expelled for any crime of violence or non-forcible sex offenses specified in the law.

I've also seen press reports about a new FERPA provision allowing notice to parents when a student violates drug or alcohol laws. What positions have colleges and university taken on this new rule?
Part 99,31 (8) (15) (I} of the FERPA regulations authorizes – but does not require – disclosure to parents of "the student's violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance.”

When will Marymount University tell me that my student has been charged with/violated a Community Conduct Code?
Marymount University will only contact a parent prior to a student conduct hearing if the student is a threat to themselves or members of the community. Otherwise, when a student is financially dependent on parent(s), guardian(s), or financial sponsor(s), the Office of Campus and Residential Services will notify parent(s), guardian(s), or financial sponsor(s), via USPS Certified Mail, when the student has been judicially dismissed, judicially suspended, or placed on disciplinary probation.