Compliance and Ethics
FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, or FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student educational records.
- The law applies to schools, including the University, that receive funds under an applicable program of the U. S. Department of Education.
- The basic purpose of FERPA is to protect the privacy of students and to ensure that students have access to their own records.
“Educational records” are defined as those records that are directly related to the student and maintained by the University or by a party acting on behalf of the University. The term record includes, but is not limited to, grade reports, transcripts, personally identifiable information, and most disciplinary records. The term record does not include records maintained by a law enforcement unit within an educational institution that was created by the unit for the purpose of law enforcement or records maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional maintained in connection with the treatment rendered to a student. “Educational Records” do not include directory information relating to a student.
“Directory Information” means information contained in an educational record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. The University has designated certain items as Directory Information that is subject to disclosure in accordance with FERPA. See https://www.usm.edu/registrar/ferpa-compliance.php
“Disclosure”, under the law, is defined as permitting access to or the release, transfer, or other communication of personally identifiable information contained in education records by any means, including oral, written, or electronic means.
FERPA defines a “student” as any individual who is or has been in attendance at an educational institution and regarding whom the institution maintains educational records.
STAFF AND FACULTY OBLIGATION
Staff and Faculty at the University must be aware of the protected status of student information. As a general rule, information related to students must not be disclosed or provided by University employees to a third party unless the student consents to the release or FERPA specifically permits the release of the information without consent.
RIGHTS UNDER FERPA
Situations Warranting FERPA Request
FERPA affords individuals the opportunity to challenge or amend his/her educational record if inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy or other rights of the student.
Process for Submitting FERPA Request
The student may submit a written request to the Registrar’s Office that the record be amended or that FERPA violation to be investigated.
What to include in your FERPA request
The written request should include the justification for the challenge or the specifics relating to the alleged FERPA violation.
Where to Send a FERPA Request
The University Registrar’s Office is located in Kennard-Washington Hall, Room 110.
Timeframe for FERPA Response
Within sixty (60) days of receipt of the written request, the University will inform the student as to whether the record will be amended or the finding relating to the alleged FERPA violation.
Appealing a FERPA Request Negative Determination
If the decision on the student request or report of FERPA violation is negative, the student may submit a written request for a hearing and challenge the decision of the University relating to the record or alleged FERPA violation. The hearing committee will inform the student of the date, place and time of the hearing.
Questions about the policies and procedures relating to the University’s “Policy on Student Records” or about the Family Educational Rights to Privacy Act of 1974 should be directed to:
RIGHT TO FILE A COMPLAINT
Individuals have the right to file a complaint with the U. S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is: