Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Understanding FERPA and Student Privacy

What is FERPA?
FERPA, also known as the Buckley Amendment, is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It is federal legislation designed to protect the privacy of students by limiting third party access to student education records. 

What is an education record? 
Education records are defined as "[t]hose records that are directly related to a student and [are] [m]aintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution."

  • Examples: Grade reports, transcripts, most disciplinary records

What does it mean to say a record is "protected" by FERPA?
Unless personally identifiable information from a student's education record falls under a specified exception (see below), the information cannot be released to third parties (including parents) without signed and dated written consent from the student.

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, D.C. 20202-4650
(202) 263-0282
(202) 260-9002 fax


Fogcutter Student Handbook

What type of information is and is not protected by FERPA?
1.  Protected information is not releasable:

  • Personally identifiable information (i.e. everything not defined as directory information).
  • Directory information the student has directed the University not to release.

2.  Information not protected by FERPA is releasable:

  • Generally, directory information is releasable. (Please see the University's "Notification of Rights Under FERPA" in the Fogcutter Student Handbook for a definition of directory information at the University of San Francisco.) 

Why can't I access my student's records?
Under FERPA, access rights that parents and legal guardians have transfer to the student once the student has turned eighteen or is attending any post-secondary educational institution, whichever comes first. Thus, while you may have been able to access your student's records in elementary or high school, you cannot in college (absent the student's written consent or an exception to FERPA).

To grant permission to release academic, financial aid and student financial account information to others, including parents, students may submit a "Student Consent to Release Information" form.  For more information and a link to the form

For access to a student's disciplinary file, a separate consent form must be submitted by the student to the Office of Student Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities (OSCRR). 

Under what conditions is prior consent not required to disclose information?
Information may be released to the following people under the following circumstances:

  • To school officials with legitimate educational interests
  • To schools in which a student seeks or intends to enroll
  • To federal, state, and local authorities conducting an audit, evaluation, or enforcement of education programs
  • In connection with financial aid
  • To organizations conducting studies on behalf of educational institutions
  • To accrediting organizations
  • To parents of a dependent student
  • To comply with a judicial order or subpoena
  • In a health or safety emergency
  • For directory information
  • To the student
  • Results of a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence
  • Results of a disciplinary hearing concerning a student who is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence and who is found to have committed a violation of the institution's rules or policies
  • To a parent of a student under the age of 21 if the institution determines that the student has committed a violation of its drug or alcohol rules or policies

Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger?
The University's Parental Notification Policy states that we may notify parents or legal guardians when there is concern for the health and welfare of the student, including situations involving medical transportation and treatment, and serious or repeated violations of alcohol and/or drug policies. (For more information, please see the Parental Notification Policy in the Fogcutter Student Handbook.)

How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?
Student disciplinary records are protected under FERPA. The best practice is for your student to inform you of any disciplinary charges directly. Students can also authorize the release of all the information in their disciplinary files.  For more information please visit the Office of Student Conduct, Rights and Responsibilities' Information for Parents and Guardians section