What is FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act)?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act is a federal law regarding the privacy of student records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of records and access provided to these records. Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld.
Why should I care about FERPA?
If you’re a student, it’s important for you to understand your rights under FERPA. If you’re a parent, you will need to understand how the law changes once your student enters a post-secondary institution. If you’re an employee of Oklahoma Baptist University with access to student education records, you’re obligated to comply with FERPA and to protect those records according to the law.
What rights does FERPA afford students with respect to their education records?
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the University receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official, written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The appropriate University official will arrange for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the University official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate or misleading. Students may ask the University to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the University official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the University decides not to amend a record as requested by the student, the University will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s educational records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception that permits disclosure with consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including university law enforcement personnel and health staff), contractors, consultants, and other outside service providers with whom the university has contracted; or a student assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Oklahoma Baptist University to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave SW, Washington, DC 20202-4606
Please reference Page 49 of the Student Handbook for the complete Student Privacy Statement.
What are education records?
Education records are directly related to a student and maintained by an institution or its agent or by a party acting for the institution or agency.
Education records include such things as graded papers, exams, transcripts, notes from a conversation with or about a student that are placed in a student’s file for others in the department to reference. Education records DO NOT INCLUDE such things as:
- sole possession records, i.e., records/notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person
- peer-graded papers before the instructor has collected them
- medical treatment records that include--but are not limited to--records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists
- employment records unless employment is based on student status
- law enforcement unit records
- alumni records
Are my admission application materials considered education records?
FERPA affords admitted students who enroll at the university the right to access their education records. Persons who apply to the university and are not admitted are not covered by FERPA. Persons who are admitted to the university but do not enroll are not covered by FERPA. Students who are admitted and enroll at the university will have the following information from the admission application process as part of their education records:
- Application for admission (does not include letters of recommendation)
- Official transcript(s)
- Standardized test scores
- Admission Letter
What is personally identifiable information?
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student include:
- Social Security number
- grades/exam scores
- Grade Point Average (GPA)
- current class schedule
- parent name and address
- country of citizenship
- religious affiliation
- disciplinary status
- marital status
- test scores (e.g., SAT, GRE, etc.)
The university will not release personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's prior written consent. Even parents are not permitted access to their son or daughter's education records unless the student has provided written authorization. Exceptions are noted in the university's annual notification of FERPA rights in the academic catalog.
Are there exceptions to the disclosure requirements of FERPA?
Yes. These exceptions include, but are not limited to, the following examples:
- Disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A “school official” is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including university law enforcement personnel and health staff); contractors, consultants, and other outside service providers with whom the university has contracted; or a student assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
- To parents if the student is a dependent for tax purposes.
- To appropriate individuals (e.g., parents/guardians, spouses, housing staff, health care personnel, police, etc.) where disclosure is in connection with a health or safety emergency and knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
- Information to a parent or legal guardian of a student under 21 years of age regarding the student’s violation of any federal, state, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the university has determined that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to the use or possession.
- Disclosure to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.
What constitutes “legitimate educational interest”?
FERPA permits university employees to have access to student education records in which they have a “legitimate educational interest.” Such access does not require prior written consent of the student. Legitimate educational interest is considered necessary for employees to carry out their job responsibilities in support of Oklahoma Baptist University’s educational mission.
What is directory or public information?
FERPA provides the university the ability to designate certain student information as “directory information.” Directory information may be made available to any person without the student’s consent unless the student gives notice as provided for below. Directory information for Oklahoma Baptist University includes but is not limited to: the student's name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, grade level, enrollment status, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, degrees, honors and awards received, and the most recent education agency or institution attended and other information that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
How can release of directory information be restricted?
Any newly entering or currently enrolled student who does not wish disclosure of directory information should notify the Academic Center in writing. No element of directory information as defined above is released for students who request nondisclosure except in situations allowed by law. The request to withhold directory information will remain in effect until the student files a written request with the Academic Center to discontinue the withholding.
Is Oklahoma Baptist University required to release a student’s directory information?
No. FERPA does not require that directory information be released—it is at the discretion of the institution. It is Oklahoma Baptist University’s practice not to provide mailing lists to third parties.
What is the annual notification to students?
Oklahoma Baptist University provides the Annual Notification of Student Rights under FERPA in the academic catalog to all enrolled students to inform them of their rights to:
- inspect and review their education records (within 45 days of a request);
- request an amendment to their education records;
- request a hearing if the request for an amendment is unsatisfactory;
- request that the institution not disclose their directory information;
- file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.
When do students’ FERPA rights begin?
At Oklahoma Baptist University, a student is defined as someone currently or previously enrolled in an academic offering of the university. This does not include prospective students or applicants to any academic program of the university. For those students who are newly admitted to Oklahoma Baptist University, FERPA becomes effective on the first day of classes for students who have enrolled in at least one course.