FERPA Information for Parents or Guardians

Understanding FERPA and Student Privacy

What is FERPA?
FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act passed by Congress in 1974. Also known as the Buckley Amendment, FERPA is designed to protect the privacy of students by limiting third party access to student education records.

What is an education record? 
FERPA defines education records as records that are directly related to a student; are maintained, in whatever format or medium, by an educational institution or by a party acting for the institution; and contain information that is personally identifiable to a student.

  • Examples: Class rosters, grade reports, student schedule, transcripts, most disciplinary records

Education records do not pertain to:

  • Records in the sole possession of the maker (e.g. private advising notes).
  • Law enforcement records created and maintained by the public safety office for law enforcement or public safety purposes.
  • Employment records (except where the employment is based on student status – e.g. work-study, wages, graduate teaching assistants).
  • Medical/psychological treatment records from a health or counseling center.
  • Alumni records which are created after the student graduates or leaves the institution.

What is Directory Information?
“Directory information [is] information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.” (FERPA Regulations, Code of Federal Regulations, Title 34, Part 99.3)

FERPA permits disclosure of directory information without consent unless the student has filed a Request for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information. Directory information at the University of San Francisco includes: student's name, USF email address, school of enrollment, credit hour load (full-time, part time), periods of enrollment, degree(s) awarded and date(s) of conferral, honors, participation in athletic activities, weight and height of athletic participants, major and minor fields, and dean's list.

Directory information does not include:

  • ethnicity or race
  • gender
  • nationality
  • social security number
  • student identification number
  • religious affiliation
  • grades or GPA
  • course enrollment or schedule

Additionally, FERPA allows colleges and universities to be more restrictive about the types of directory information that are not released. As such, USF also does not release student and/or parental address information to third parties.

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.

What type of information is and is not protected by FERPA?

  1. Protected information is not releasable:
  2. Personally identifiable information (i.e. everything not defined as directory information).
  3. Directory information the student has directed the University not to release.
  4. Information not protected by FERPA is releasable:
  5. Generally, directory information is releasable unless the student has filed a Request for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information.

How can 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. However, FERPA provides for the release of records under the following circumstances:

  1. Through signed and dated written consent of the student.
  2. Students may also grant permission to release academic, financial aid and student financial account information to third parties, including parents, by submitting a "Student Consent to Release Information" form online or to the Student Enrollment Services Office.

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). That form is available for students to download on the OSCRR website.

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
  • A party, such as the Department of Veteran’s Affairs or an employer, providing financial aid to the student
  • To organizations conducting studies on behalf of educational institutions
  • To accrediting organizations
  • 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.

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