FERPA for Faculty and Instructors

As an employee of the University of Arkansas, you will most likely encounter confidential student information in the course of your everyday work. You have a responsibility to protect educational records in your possession even if you don’t directly work with this information on a regular basis as part of your job duties.

This listing of confidential information is protected by FERPA and includes, but is not limited to:

  • Transcripts
  • Applications
  • Personnel files
  • Personal information
  • Financial information
  • Records or other forms of individually identifiable information
  • Conversations about personal matters pertaining to a student

FERPA at a Glance:

  • A federal law designed to protect the privacy of educational records. It also provides guidelines for appropriately using and releasing student educational records.
  • It is intended that the student's rights be broadly defined and applied. Therefore, consider the student as the "owner" of the information in his or her academic record and the University as the "custodian" of that record.

Special Exceptions

Generally, schools must have written permission from the student to release information from a student's record. However, FERPA allows schools to release them without consent to the following parties:

  • School officials with a legitimate educational interest
  • Other schools to which a student is transferring
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
  • Accrediting organizations
  • Compliance with judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
  • State and local authorities within a juvenile justice system pursuant to specific state law

Viewing FERPA Information

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FERPA FAQ for Faculty and Instructors

Posting Grades

Since grades can never be directory information, it is inappropriate to post grades in a public setting. An instructor may, however, post grades if the grades are posted in such a manner that only the instructor and the individual student can identify the individual and his/her grade. Grades should never be posted by any portion of the SSN. Additionally, it is recommended that such a posted list should not be in the same order as the class roster or in alphabetical order.

Web-Based Tools to Support Classes

Courses supported by class websites and/or discussion groups must take extra precautions to not inadvertently release non-directory student information. Only directory information can be available to the general public and other class members, so it is recommended that such Web-based tools employ a security layer so that only class members and instructors can access appropriate information.

Students Opting for No Release in the Classroom Setting

Students cannot choose to be anonymous in the classroom setting. If a student has chosen "no release" for his or her directory information, that does not mean that an instructor cannot call on him or her by name in class or that the student's e-mail address cannot be displayed on an electronic classroom support tool such as a discussion board, blog or chat feature.

Return of Assignments

Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student's express written permission. So, extreme care should be used to protect such information when returning assignments to students.

Letters of Recommendation

Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student to allow you to (1) access the student's educational records and (2) disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member may access a student's educational records without the student's written permission only if specific job duties, such as the duties of an academic advisor, require access to these records. However, a faculty member, or any other appropriate university official, may not disclose confidential information from a student's educational records to a third party without express written permission from the student. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed without the student's consent.

Disposal of Confidential Information

Dispose of all material containing confidential information, such as tests, papers or class rosters by shredding or placing them in a receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.

Accessing Confidential Student Information

Access to personally identifiable information contained in educational records may be given to appropriate University administrators, faculty members or staff members who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. Faculty members do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access. This type of access is termed "legitimate educational interest".