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What is the Law?

The “Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act” (referred to as FERPA and sometimes called the Buckley Amendment) was passed by Congress in 1974. FERPA and its regulations establish the following rights for students:

  • To inspect and review their educational records;
  • To challenge the content and request an amendment to their education records;
  • To request that the College not disclose directory information;
  • To file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education when an educational institution violates the Act.
  • To receive an annual notification of these rights.

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What are Educational Records?

Just about any information directly related to a student and maintained by Wheaton College or by a person acting for the College is considered a student educational record. Any record that contains  a student’s name or information from which an individual student can be personally identified should be held in confidence.

Examples of educational records include:

  • grades / transcripts
  • student schedules
  • papers / student thesis / tests
  • records of student discipline
  • personal information such as social security number, age, parent’s name

Educational records are not:

  • sole possession records (not accessible or revealed to any other person)
  • law enforcement records, as defined in FERPA
  • employment records (except for student workers–their records are education records)
  • medical / treatment
  • alumni

The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. These records could be files, handwritten notes, tapes, disks and film.  A student educational record may be:

  • a document in the Office of the Registrar
  • a computer printout in your office
  • a class list on your desktop
  • a computer display screen
  • notes you have taken during an advising session

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Basic Rules for Compliance

  • Student educational records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.
  • As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession.
  • Some information is considered public (called “Directory Information”). This information can be released without the student’s written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential as well and it will be flagged as such in the student’s record.
  • Wheaton College identifies the following as directory information: name, class, address (campus, home, and email), telephone listings, major and secondary concentration fields of study, participation in officially recognized sports and off-campus study programs, dates of attendance, degrees, honors and awards achieved in the curricular life of the College, and individually identifiable photographs and electronic images of the student solicited by or maintained directly by Wheaton as part of the educational record. Therefore, you may (but are not required to) release this “Directory Information” without consent.
  • You have access to information only for legitimate use to discharge your responsibilities as a College employee. “Need to know” is the basic principle.
  • In general, it is a good idea to check with the Office of the Registrar or the Dean of Students before releasing information to any third party unless you have obtained permission of the student.
  • If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you contact the Office of the Registrar at 508-286-8247 or registrar@wheatoncollege.edu

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How to Avoid Violations

To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:

  • at any time use the Social Security Number of a student in a public posting of grades or link the name of a student with that student’s social security number in any public manner;
  • leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students;
  • circulate a printed class list with student name and social security number or grades as an attendance roster;
  • discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student or verifying that the student has granted access to the third party by contacting the Office of the Registrar or The Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services;
  • provide anyone outside the college with lists of students enrolled in classes;
  • provide anyone with student schedules, or assist anyone in finding a student on campus, other than College employees with a need to know.

Learn more by visiting the ‘Understanding FERPA’ page for real-world scenarios and recommended courses of action.

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