Students have options for privacy

Monica Kiley

Students who don’t want their personal information to be divulged to outside sources have several options available to them.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records.

Students have specific, protected rights regarding the release of such records, and FERPA requires that institutions adhere strictly to these guidelines.

FERPA gives students the following rights regarding educational records: The right to access educational records kept by the school, the right to demand that educational records be disclosed only with student consent, the right to amend educational records, and the right to file complaints against the school for disclosing educational records in violation of FERPA.

Students who wish to have their information kept private need to fill out a “Request to Prevent Disclosure of Directory Information” form in the Office of the Registrar, 210 Alumni Hall. This form covers the online student directory and all information provided there. There is an option for the student to keep their e-mail private, but Judy Minnick, program coordinator of records and registration, advised against this, because it is the main source for faculty and staff to keep in touch with their students.

“This form is mostly used for information on the online directory,” Minnick said. “Very few have their ISU e-mail address private.”

What a lot of students do not know is what defines an educational record. FERPA defines an educational record as records that are kept in the sole possession of the institution, are used only as a memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.

There are records that are not considered as educational records and therefore are not covered by FERPA. Those include: private notes of individual staff or faculty (not kept in student advising folders), police and campus police records, medical records and statistical data compilations that contain no mention of personally identifiable information about any specific student.

“I will provide this information to outside sources,” Minnick said. “Unless the student has come in and signed this form.”

The Office of the Registrar updates its Web site every week, updating student records, including privacy requests.

However, there are two different kinds of student records. The first is called directory information and includes such things as the student name, address, phone numbers, and dates of attendance, along with enrollment status and major field of study.

Some information in a student’s educational record is defined as directory information under FERPA. The school may disclose this type of information without the written consent of the student. However, the student can exercise the option to restrict the release of directory information by submitting a formal request to the school to limit disclosure.

The second type of student record is known as non-directory information. Non-directory information is any educational record not considered directory information. Non-directory information cannot be released to anyone, including parents of the student, without prior written consent of the student. Furthermore, faculty and staff can access non-directory information only if they have a legitimate academic need to do so. Non-directory information includes: Social Security number, student identification number, race, ethnicity or nationality, gender, grade transcripts and reports.

“Unless a student is listed as a dependent on their parents’ tax returns, parents are not allowed to find out or have the financial aid information about the student,” said Roberta Johnson, director of student financial aid. “Also, students who are married need to understand that their spouses cannot have this information unless the student comes into Financial Aid and signs a release form specifically for that person.”

There is no global network between offices, so students need to go to each office individually and fill out the forms. Johnson said talks are in the works to have a global network completed so that students only have to fill out one form that is good for all administrative offices at the university level.

In general, a student’s prior written consent is always required before institutions can legitimately disclose non-directory information. Institutions may tailor a consent form to meet their unique academic needs and must specify the records to be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure is to be made, the date, the signature of the student whose record is to be disclosed and the signature of the custodian of the educational record.

Prior written consent is not required when disclosure is made directly to the student or to other school officials within the same institution where there is a legitimate educational interest. A legitimate educational interest may include enrollment or transfer matters, financial aid issues, or information requested by regional accrediting organizations.

Institutions do not need prior written consent to disclose non-directory information where the health and safety of the student is at issue, when complying with a judicial order or subpoena, or where, as a result of a crime of violence, a disciplinary hearing was conducted by the school, a final decision was recorded, and the alleged victim seeks disclosure.