Welcome to CCA's FERPA Tutorial

About FERPA: What Is the Law?
Educational Records & Personally Identifiable Information
Basic Rules
Avoiding Violations
Summary
FERPA Self-Quiz

FERPA stands for Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. This tutorial is a learning tool designed to provide CCA faculty and staff with a better understanding of the confidentiality protections that this federal law affords student records maintained by colleges and universities.

Before accessing student records, carefully review the material presented in this site. Maintaining confidentiality of student records can be achieved by learning a few basic requirements of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

This tutorial is designed to give you a basic understanding of the rules governing how to control access and release of student information at CCA. This will enable you to feel comfortable performing your job while respecting students’ privacy rights. This will allow you and CCA to be in compliance with FERPA.

The tutorial is not an exhaustive treatise on the topic of FERPA, but it does address the essential elements of the law. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. Specific questions regarding FERPA may be addressed to the Office of the Registrar.

For more information, or consultation regarding specific situations, you may contact the Office of the Registrar at 510.594.3641 or email jallen@cca.edu.

About FERPA: What Is the Law?

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (referred to as FERPA and sometimes called the Buckley Amendment) was passed by Congress in 1974. FERPA applies to schools that receive funds under any program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.

FERPA and its regulations establish the following rights for students to:

  • inspect and review their educational records
  • challenge the content and request an amendment to their education records
  • request that the college not disclose directory information
  • file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education when an educational institution violates the Act
  • receive an annual notification of these rights

For more information about FERPA, please refer to the CCA Student Handbook.

Educational Records & Personally Identifiable Information

Just about any information directly related to a student and maintained by CCA or by a person acting for the college is considered a student educational record. Any record that contains a student’s name or information from which an individual student can be personally identified should be held in confidence.

Examples of education records / personal identifiable information include the following:

  • grades/transcripts
  • student schedules
  • enrollment records
  • papers/student thesis/tests
  • records of student discipline
  • indirect identifiers such as the student’s place of birth and mother’s maiden name
  • personal information such as social security number and age
  • other information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the college community who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances to identify the student with reasonable certainty

Not included in education records:

  • records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel kept in the sole possession of the maker of the records and not revealed to anyone
  • records of a campus law enforcement unit created and maintained by that unit and used solely for law enforcement purposes
  • records of employment (except for student workers -- their records are education records)
  • records which include information about an individual after the individual is no longer a student
  • records kept and maintained by a health care professional, used solely in connection with treatment and disclosed only to individuals providing treatment

The storage media in which you find this information does not matter. These records could be files, handwritten notes, tapes, disks, or film. A student educational record may be any of the following:

  • a document in the Student Records Office
  • a computer printout in your office
  • a class list on your desktop
  • a computer display screen
  • notes you have taken during an advising session

Basic Rules

  • Student educational records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.
  • As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession.
  • “Directory information” is considered public. This information can be released without the student’s written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential as well and it will be flagged as such in within the database.

At CCA the following information has been designated as "directory information" and is not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed:

  • name
  • campus address
  • telephone number
  • CCA email address
  • digitized image / photograph
  • enrollment status
  • major field of study
  • dates of attendance
  • degrees and awards received
  • date of degree conferral
  • student ID number as displayed on a student badge, but only if the identifier cannot be used to gain access to education records except when used in conjunction with one or more factors that authenticate the user’s identity such as a PIN, password, or other factor known only by the authorized user.

You have access to information only for legitimate use in order to carry out your responsibilities as an employee of CCA.

Avoiding Violations

To avoid violations of FERPA rules, do not:

  • at any time use the social security number (or any portion) in a public posting of grades
  • link the name of a student with that student’s social security number or student ID number in any public manner
  • leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by allowing students to sort through the papers of all students
  • circulate a printed class list with the student name and social security number or address as an attendance roster
  • discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student or verifying that the student has granted access to the third party by contacting the Office of the Registrar
  • assist anyone in locating a student on campus, other than college employees with a need to know

Summary

Fundamental FERPA concepts:

  • written permission of student required to discuss personally identifiable information
  • knowledge of the exceptions to written permission
  • students' right to access their records
  • required annual notification
  • legitimate educational interest

When Consent Is Not Required (Note: This list of exceptions is not exhaustive)

  • for legitimate educational purposes within the college -- on an need-to-know basis.
  • to officials at an institution in which the student seeks to enroll.
  • to comply with a court order or subpoena
  • in connection with a health or safety emergency, if necessary to protect the student or others
  • to parents of students who are dependents for income tax purposes.
  • if it is directory information.
  • to parents of a student younger than 21 if the disclosure concerns discipline for violations of the college's on-campus drug and alcohol policy.

FERPA Self-Quiz

Question 1

You get a frantic phone call from an individual who says that he is a student’s father and must get in touch with the student immediately due to a family emergency. Can you tell him when and where the student's next class is today?

NO
For the safety of the student you cannot tell another person where a student is at any time. Instruct the caller to contact either the Office of Student Affairs or the Office of the Registrar for additional information.

Question 2

You receive a call from a recruiting firm asking for names and addresses of students with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. They say they have good job information for these students. Can you help these students get jobs by giving out this information?

NO
While we all want to help students with job placement, the request should be denied.

Do not give out student information that pertains to grade point average to anyone without prior written consent of that student. All outside requests for information should be referred to the Registrar. Information about the recruiting firm, however, could be provided to students and should be forwarded to the Office of Career Development.

Question 3

A student asks you for grade information, because there is a hold on the student's account. Do you give out the requested grade information?

YES (It is allowable, but discouraged.)

By law, students may view records but institutions may withhold official copies of documents when money is owed to the institution. Therefore, if a student has a hold they most likely have an outstanding balance with the college and are being prompted to make arrangements for payment by being directed to Student Accounts to resolve the matter. Holds may also be applied for reasons other than finances, and are effective only when the student goes through the appropriate channels to get access to the record.

Question 4

You receive a phone call from the local police department indicating that they are trying to determine whether a particular student was in attendance on a specific day. Since they are in the middle of an investigation, are you allowed to give them this information?

NO
The police should be first directed to the Public Safety Office or the Registrar. Information about whether a student was enrolled in a particular semester is directory information and can be obtained through Student Records. If the police require more detailed information, a subpoena may be required. Additionally, FERPA requires notification be sent to the student, unless it is specifically stated on the subpoena that the student must not be notified.

Question 5

Is it allowable for faculty members to leave exams, papers, etc., outside their offices for students to pick up?

NO
That is a violation of the privacy rule because it is inappropriate for students to have access to other students’ information. You cannot leave personally identifiable materials in a public place.

Question 6

An unauthorized person retrieves information from a computer screen that was left unattended. Under FERPA, is the staff member or institution responsible?

YES and NO
*Information on a computer screen should be treated the same as printed reports. The medium in which the information is held is unimportant. No information should be left accessible or unattended, including displays. FERPA regulations do not apply to applicants or recently admitted students. FERPA regulations do not begin until the first day of classes.

Question 7

You have been granted access to certain educational records in accordance with your job responsibilities at CCA. Since this is information you are entitled to under FERPA can you redisclose this information to any party?

NO
FERPA states that you may not redisclose information without prior consent from the student. There are some occasions when this is allowable, such as release to organizations conducting educational studies, accrediting agencies and judicial orders.

Question 8

You are facing an emergency situation where you fear for the health and safety of the student or other individuals if you do not release certain protected information to a third party. Can you exercise judgment and release the information?

YES
The health and safety of members of the CCA community is paramount, and FERPA is not intended to increase the risk of individuals’ safety in an emergency situation. There is a provision in FERPA which states that you may release information from an educational record to an appropriate person “in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.”

Question 9

A person comes into an advisor’s office with a letter containing a signature that give consent to release the transcript of a student. Do you release the transcript to them?

NO
Transcripts are available only through the Student Records Office. Students can produce a transcript though their WebAdvisor account. Do not give any records to a third party.

Question 10

A student objects to wearing an ID badge on campus. Does the student have the right to object to wearing a student ID?

NO
Under the revised FERPA regulations students may not opt out of wearing the student ID badge while on campus just as they are not able to opt out of having their name on an attendance roster for any course they are enrolled in per term.

Question 11

You enter a comment about a student in Colleague on the STRK (Student Remarks) screen. Is this record subject to FERPA guidelines?

YES
Electronic records such as comments that are recorded in the student information system are subject to FERPA guidelines.

Back to top