The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended (also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment), is a federal law regarding the privacy of student education records and the obligations of the institution, primarily in the areas of release of the education records and the access provided to these education records.
Any educational institution that receives funds under any program administered by the U.S. Secretary of Education is bound by FERPA requirements. Institutions that fail to comply with FERPA may have funds administered by the Secretary of Education withheld. To comply with FERPA, educational institutions are required to:
Under FERPA, education records are defined as records that are directly related to a student and/or from which a student can be identified (personally identifiable information) and are maintained by an education agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including: typed, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche and email, among others.
Education records do not include such things as:
In accordance with FERPA, Pierce College annually notifies students of their FERPA rights. Students are notified of their FERPA rights in the college catalog, Website, student handbook and quarterly bulletin. A student's FERPA rights include:
Students (which includes former students) have the right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days from making such a request. The right of inspection and review includes: the right to access, with an explanation and interpretation of the record; the right to a copy of the education record when failure to provide a copy of the record would effectively prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record. The institution may refuse to provide a copy of a student's education record provided such refusal does not limit access.
Limitations exist on students' rights to inspect and review their education records. For example, the institution is not required to permit students to inspect and review the following:
Students may request that their education records be amended if they believe such information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights. Students must request in writing that the office that maintains those records amend them. Students should identify the part of the records they want corrected and specify why they believe it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of privacy rights.
That office will review the request and inform the students in a reasonable amount of time after receiving the request. If the records custodian refuses to amend the record, students have the right to a hearing. A hearing officer appointed by the Vice President for Learning and Student Success will conduct the hearing. The hearing will be held within a reasonable amount of time after the request for the hearing has been received. The hearing officer will notify the student, reasonably in advance, of the date, place, and time of the hearing.
If the hearing officer/board supports the complaint, the education record will be amended accordingly and the student will be so informed. If the hearing officer/board decides not to amend the education record, students have the right to place in the education record a statement commenting on the challenged information and/or stating the reasons for disagreement with the decision. This statement will be maintained as part of the education record as long as the contested portion of the record is maintained, and whenever a copy of the education record is sent to any party, the student's statement will be included.
Common education record types
According to FERPA, personally identifiable information in an education record may not be released without prior written consent from the student. The written consent must specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of disclosures, and identify the party to whom disclosures may be made. A "Student Consent to Release Information" form is available in the Registration Office and in electronic format (pdf). Some examples of information that MAY NOT BE RELEASED without prior written consent of the student are:
With few exceptions (stated below), Pierce College will not disclose personally identifiable information from a student's education record without the student's written consent. Pierce College will not release a student's record to a parent/guardian without the student's written permission. Such a policy is in effect regardless of the student's age or financial dependency upon the parent/guardian.
Notable exceptions which permit access and/or disclosure of information in a student's education record without the student's written consent include:
Directory Information: Disclosure of those items the College designates as directory information. Pierce College has designated the following information as directory information and may release this information, unless the student has submitted a request for non-disclosure:
A student's directory information may be disclosed unless a student files a "Request for Non-Disclosure of Directory Information" form with the Registration Office by the tenth day of the quarter (eighth day for summer quarter). Forms are available in Registration Office and in electronic format (pdf). Requests submitted after the deadline will be honored; however, disclosure of directory information may have occurred. In addition, Pierce College will honor requests for non-disclosure of directory information from former students. Students who wish to restrict directory information should realize that their names will not appear in the commencement bulletin and other college publications. Also, employers, credit card companies, loan agencies, scholarship committees and the like will be denied any of the student's directory information and will be informed that we have no information available about the student's attendance at Pierce College.
School Official: Disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is defined as a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit); a person or company with whom the College has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; a student serving on an official committee, such as disciplinary or grievance committee; or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
Solomon Amendment: Pursuant to the Solomon Amendment, Pierce College is required to provide some or all of the following information, upon request, to representatives of the Department of Defense for military recruiting purposes: student's name, address, telephone listing, date of birth (17 years or older), level of education, and academic major (for currently enrolled students only).
Other disclosures permissible without written consent include disclosure to: to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll; specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes; appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student; organizations conducting certain studies on behalf of the College; accrediting organizations; appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law; victims of certain offenses the final results of a disciplinary proceeding regardless of the outcome; anyone the final result of a campus disciplinary proceeding in which a violation of certain offenses occurred; parents of a student under age 21 who violates drug or alcohol laws or policies; comply with a judicial order lawfully issued subpoena.
Note: Because the college must make a reasonable effort to notify a student about the subpoena for their education records, all subpoenas for student records must be forwarded to the Registrar's Office.
If a parent or eligible student feels that the college has not fully honored his/her privacy rights under FERPA, a written complaint may be filed with the Family Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Ave. SW, Washington, DC 20202-4605. The Family Compliance Office investigates each timely complaint to determine whether the educational agency or institution has failed to comply with the provisions of FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as an allegation that is submitted within 180 days of the date of the alleged violation or of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation.