Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Policies

Academics

Access to Student Records

The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Wheaton College abides by the provisions of the Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. This act insures a wide range of rights, including, but not limited to: information about student records that the College maintains, who maintains them, who has access to them and for what purposes access is granted. The act also permits the College to release "directory information" without a student's consent. Directory information consists of: the full name of the student as it appears on the official record; a student's dates of attendance; and a student's degrees and honors and the dates they were awarded, and other information listed in section III.E below. In addition, the act guarantees students' access to their records, and allows students to restrict such access to others.

It is important to note that the College is more rigorous in protecting the privacy of the student data entrusted to it than the law requires.

Students who wish to restrict access to their educational records may submit their written request to the Office of the Registrar. Guidelines and a statement of policy on access to student records are also available in that office. Questions about the interpretation of guidelines and policies should be referred to the Registrar or the Dean of Students.

POLICY ON ACCESS TO STUDENT RECORDS UNDER THE FEDERAL FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS AND PRIVACY ACT (FERPA) OF 1974

  1. Scope of the Act.
    1. General. The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 affords to persons who are currently, or were formerly, in attendance at the College as registered students a right of access to their "educational records" which contain information directly related to such persons. Persons who unsuccessfully applied for admission to the College are not covered by the Act. The Act covers only educational records and, therefore, does not include some public safety, medical and counseling records which have separate laws and policies guaranteeing their privacy. The Act also restricts the persons to whom the College may disclose a student's educational records without the student's written permission.
    2. Records Covered. "Educational Records" of a student include records, files, documents, and other materials regularly maintained by the College which contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained in connection with the student's attendance at the College. There are a number of types of records which are specifically excluded from the scope of the Act; for example, a student is not entitled to examine the following:
      1. Records maintained personally by faculty members that are not available to others.
      2. Records which are created or maintained by a physician, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional which are created, maintained, or used only in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and are not available to anyone other than persons providing such treatment. Thus, for example, a student does not have the right to inspect records maintained by the College Health Service or the Counseling Service. Such records, however, can be personally reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice.
      3. Records, such as those which might be maintained by the College's legal counsel, the confidentiality of which is protected by law.
      4. Records containing financial information about his or her parents, such as information submitted in connection with an application for financial aid.
    3. Access Rights of Students.
      1. Procedure. A student may obtain access to his educational records by making application to the Office of the Registrar. The College is required to grant the request within 45 days. The Registrar will forward copies of the student's request to the appropriate offices holding the requested files. These offices will contact the student inviting him to inspect them.
      2. Confidential Letters of Recommendation. In general, a student may have access to confidential letters and statements of recommendation which have been generated since the student's matriculation at the College and which are part of the student's educational records. This right, however, does not apply to such letters and statements placed in the student's educational records prior to January 1, 1975, if such letters and statements are not used for purposes other than those for which they were specifically intended.A student may, by signing a written waiver, relinquish his or her right to inspect confidential recommendations placed in the student's educational records on or after January 1, 1975, respecting (1) admission to any educational institution; (2) an application for employment; or (3) the receipt of an honor or honorary recognition.In no case will any student be required by the College to waive his or her rights to access of confidential recommendations. A student may find it appropriate to do so for a number of reasons. For example, the student may feel that his or her professors will write more candid and helpful letters of recommendation if the letters are not available to the student.
      3. Copying. A student will ordinarily not be provided with copies of any part of his record other than his transcript, unless the inability to obtain copies would effectively prevent him from exercising his right to inspect and review his educational records. In cases where copies will be provided, the department or office of the College maintaining the record in question may impose a charge for making such copies at such uniform rates as it shall determine.
      4. Other Rights.
        1. A student also has the right to be provided with a list of the types of educational records which are maintained by the College that relate to students. The College Registrar has compiled such a list and will, on request, make copies of this list available to any student to assist such student in determining those records to which he or she may want access. Generally, educational records of a student will be maintained by the Office of Registrar, the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services, the Office of Student Financial Services, the Dean of Students Office and the department of the student's major field of study. In addition, the College Health Service (located at the Norton Medical Center) and the Counseling Services maintain records relating to students who have utilized these facilities.
        2. A student may request that his records be amended to eliminate any information contained therein which he believes is inaccurate, misleading, or violates his privacy or other rights.
        3. If the College decides to refuse to amend a student's records, he or she is entitled to a hearing to challenge the content of his or her educational records in order to insure that the records are not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of his or her privacy or other rights. Normally, an informal hearing will suffice with an administrator of the College who has authority to make changes in a student's records. If a student is dissatisfied with the results of such a hearing, the student should be referred to the College Committee on Academic Standing or the Dean of Students.
        4. If after a hearing the College decides that the student's records are not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of his or her privacy or other rights, the student has the right to place in his or her records a statement commenting upon the information and/or setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decision of the College.
    4. Access by or Release to Others.
      1. General. The College will not generally permit access to, or release of, educational records or personally identifiable information contained therein to any party without the written consent of the student. The College may, however, as provided in the Act, release such data to certain persons including:
        1. College personnel who have a legitimate educational interest in obtaining access to the records. Such access will be granted to College faculty, staff and peer advisors including student employees or agents of the institution, if necessary to conduct official business, as authorized by the Registrar. Legitimate educational interest includes performing a task related to the regular duties of the employee or agent, the student's education, the discipline of a student, a service or benefit for the student, or maintaining safety and security of the campus.
        2. Persons who require access in connection with the student's application for, or receipt of, financial aid.
        3. Parents of a student, provided the student is a "dependent" of the parents for federal income tax purposes. In general, the College does not make educational records available to a student's parents. Where the College believes that it is in a dependent student's interest, information from the student's educational records may be released to the parents of such a dependent student. If a dependent student has submitted a written request that information not be shared with his/her parent(s), the college will not disclose information to that parent.
        4. The College may release such information in compliance with a judicial order or pursuant to any lawfully issued subpoena. Before any information is so released the College will first notify the student at the student's most recent address as shown in the records maintained by the Office of the Registrar unless: (a) the College receives a Federal grand jury subpoena and the court orders the College not to disclose the existence or contents of the subpoena to the student. (b) a court or other issuing agency issues a subpoena for a law enforcement purpose and orders the College not to disclose the existence or contents of the subpoena to the student.
        5. If the College initiates legal action against a parent or eligible student, it will first notify in advance the parent or eligible student at their most recent address, as shown in the records maintained by the Office of the Registrar, of its intent to disclose the information from educational records to a court of law.
        6. The College may include information in a student's educational record concerning disciplinary action taken against the student for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety or well-being of that student, other students or other members of the Wheaton community. The College may disclose, without prior consent, information contained in a student's educational records concerning disciplinary action taken against the student, described above, to faculty and College officials at the College and at other institutions who have legitimate educational interests in the behavior of the student.
        7. In connection with an emergency, the College may release information from educational records to appropriate persons if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of a student or other persons.
      2. Parental Notification. The College considers all students to be adults, regardless of their age, and will refrain from informing parents or guardians about individual student issues except in unusual circumstances. These circumstances may include a serious medical or psychological emergency; an action taken by the College Committee on Academic Standing, the Dean of Students Office or the College Hearing Board; or the receipt of an award.
      3. Release with the Student's Consent. Upon written consent or request by a student, the College will release information from the student's educational records to third parties. The student should make a request for such release in the Office of the Registrar or at the department or office having custody of the record involved. The College may impose a charge for copying a student's records in connection with such a release.
      4. Transfer of Information to Third Parties. It shall be a condition of the release by the College of any personal information on a student to a third party, that the party to which the information is released will not permit any other party to have access to such information without the written consent of the student. An institution to which such information is released may permit its officers, employees, and agents to use such information but only for the purposes for which the disclosure was made. If a third party rediscloses personally identifiable student information in violation of FERPA, the College will be prohibited from permitting access to educational records to that third party for a period of not less than five years.
      5. Directory Information. The College may release "directory information" with respect to a student without the student's consent. The College is required to give notice of the categories of information which it will treat as "directory information." Accordingly, the College hereby gives notice that it has designated the following categories of information as directory information with respect to each student: name, local and permanent address, and telephone listing; date and place of birth; major field of study; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; weight and height of members of athletic teams; photographic and digital images; dates of attendance at Wheaton; degrees conferred, awards received, other honors and their dates; and other educational institutions attended.A student in attendance at the College has the right to have directory information withheld from the public if they so desire. Each student who wants all directory information to be withheld shall so indicate by completing a form which can be obtained from the Office of the Registrar. It is important to note that such requests must be made within the first 15 days of any semester.
    5. General.
      1. Students will be notified of their rights at the start of each academic year. Copies of these Guidelines and Statement of Policy and of the Federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act and the Regulations thereunder are also available at the Office of the Registrar, the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services and the Dean of Students Office.
      2. Questions about the interpretation of the Guidelines and Statement of Policy should be referred to the Office of the Registrar or the Dean of Students Office.
      3. Complaints regarding violations of a student's rights under the Act may be filed with The Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington DC, 20202-5920, tel (202) 260-3887, fax (202) 260-9001. Persons filing complaints with the U.S. Department of Education under FERPA must have legal standing. A complainant must be a parent or eligible student affected by an alleged violation. This is consistent with other laws affording specific rights to persons.

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