FERPA Violations to Avoid
Special "Don'ts" for Faculty
To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:
- Provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than university employees in finding a student on campus.
- Circulate a printed class list with student name and (whole or partial) social security number or grades as an attendance roster.
- Leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students.
- At any time use the (whole or partial) social security number or student id number of a student in a public posting of grades.
- Link the name of a student with that student's (whole or partial) social security number in any public manner.
- Provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose.
- Discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student.
Letters of Recommendation
Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person's personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student's educational record is included in the letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which (1) specifies the records that may be disclosed, (2) states the purpose of the disclosure, and (3) identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
If this letter is kept on file by the person writing the recommendation, it would be part of the student's education record and the student has the right to read it unless he or she has waived that right to access.
Sample letter of recommendation
I hereby give permission to Prof. Jones to write a letter of recommendation to:
Perpendicular Productions LLC.
1455 Anderson Ave.
Anytown, OH 12345
Prof. Jones has my permission to include my GPA and grades.
I waive (or do not waive) my right to review a copy of this letter at any time in the future.
Posting of Student Grades
The public posting of grades either by the student's name, Id number, or (whole or partial) social security number without the student's written permission is a violation of FERPA. This includes the posting of grades to a class website and applies to any public posting of grades for students taking distance education courses.
Instructors and others who post grades should use a system that ensures that FERPA requirements are met. This can be accomplished either by obtaining the student's written permission or by using code words or randomly assigned numbers that only the instructor and individual student should know. Grade postings should never be in alphabetical order by last names.
Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy rights. Notification of grades via e-mail is not recommended. There is minimal guarantee of confidentiality of e-mail. The institution would be held responsible if an unauthorized third party gained access, in any manner, to a student's educational record through any electronic transmission method.
Penalties for Violating FERPA Regulations
The Family Policy Compliance Office reviews and investigates complaints of violations of FERPA. If the Office finds that there has been a failure to comply with FERPA, it will notify the institution about the corrections that need to be made to bring the institution into compliance. The Office will establish a reasonable period of time for the institution to voluntarily accomplish the specified changes.
If the Secretary of Education finds, after this reasonable period of time, that an institution has failed to comply with FERPA and determines that compliance cannot be secured by any means, can, among other options, direct that no federal funds under his/her administrative control (financial aid, education grants, etc.) be made available to that institution.