What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students."
Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student's education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- Accrediting organizations;
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
Southwestern Community College may disclose, without consent, "directory" information, which includes:
- Student's name
- Telephone listing
- Electronic mail address
- Date and place of birth
- Major field of study
- Dates of attendance
- Grade level
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Degrees, honors, and awards received
- The most recent educational agency or institution attended
- Student ID number, user ID, or other unique personal identifier used to communicate in electronic systems that cannot be used to access education records without a PIN, password, etc. (A student’s SSN, in whole or in part, cannot be used for this purpose.)
Any student objecting to his or her directory information being made public must file notice of such objection with the registrar’s office.
For additional information, the student may contact: Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20202, 800.USA.LEARN, 800.872.5327 (voice)
Individuals who use TDD may call 800.437.0833.
The official academic records of enrollment for credit earned by a student at Southwestern Community College shall be retained in perpetuity. All student record documents, which are used to create, update, and support the accuracy of the official academic transcript, veterans’ records, and placement records shall be retained for three years after a student’s last enrollment. These documents may then be destroyed in the manner most appropriate. All student financial aid records will be retained five years following the end of the fiscal year for which funds were awarded. No records may be preserved beyond graduation or other final departure from the institution except:
- Academic records subject to the limitations of nondisclosure
- Financial records of continuing obligations
- Medical and psychiatric records subject to normal rules for privileged information
- Financial aid records
The student has the right to inspect and review his/her educational records. The registrar’s office at Southwestern has been designated to coordinate the inspection and review of such records. The student must make a written request to the registrar’s office to inspect records. Only records covered by the “Family Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended” will be made available within 45 days of the receipt of the written request. Educational records do not include records of instructional, administrative, and educational personnel, which are the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any individual except a temporary substitute; records of the Security Office; student health records; employment records; and alumni records. Health records however, may be reviewed by physicians of the student’s choosing. The student has the right to request and receive a response that explains or interprets his/her educational records. A student may challenge the accuracy of records maintained by the college on the grounds the records are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise violate the privacy or other rights of the student.
The college has established the following procedures to provide an opportunity for the student to correct or delete inaccurate records, or to insert a written explanation of record content:
- Discuss the issue first with the individual staff person who established or maintains the records. Presumably most issues can be resolved at this level.
- If a satisfactory resolution cannot be reached, the student should submit the question to the dean of student services who will investigate and respond in writing.
- If the decisions are in agreement with the student’s request, the appropriate records will be amended.
- If the decisions are not in agreement, the student will be notified within a reasonable period of time that the records will not be amended; and the student will be informed by the dean of student services of his/her right to formal hearing.
Student requests for a formal hearing must be made in writing to the vice president of instruction, who, within a reasonable period of time after receiving such requests, will inform the student of the date, place, and time of the hearing. Students may present evidence relevant to the issues raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons of their choice.
The College Review Committee will be the hearing panel. Decisions of the hearing panel will be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing, and will consist of written statements summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decisions, and will be delivered, in writing, to all parties concerned. If the decision is in favor of the student, the education records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the decision of the hearing panel. If the decision is unsatisfactory to the student, the student may comment on the information in his/her educational records.
The student’s written comments should set forth any reasons for disagreement with the decision of the hearing panel. The statements will be placed in the student’s educational records and released when the records in question are disclosed. A student who believes that the adjudication of his/her challenge was unfair, or not in keeping with the provisions of the Act may request in writing as a final appeal, assistance from the president of the college. Students who believe their rights have been abridged may file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20202, concerning the alleged failure of Southwestern to comply with the act.