Family Education Rights and Privacy Act & Disclosure of Education Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. Under FERPA, the College may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from a student's education records to a third party, including parents, unless the student has provided written consent.
Understanding Educational Records
The term "education records" is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by a school or by a party acting for the school. Under FERPA, a school is not generally required to maintain particular education records or education records that contain specific information. Rather, the school is required to provide certain privacy protections for those education records that it does maintain. Also, unless there is an outstanding request by a student to inspect and review education records, FERPA permits the school to destroy such records without notice to the student.
FERPA affords students at Rhode Island College (the “College”) certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:
- The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day the College receives a request for access. A student should submit to the Records Office a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The Records Office will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. Written requests should be submitted to:
Rhode Island College
Building 4 (B4)
600 Mount Pleasant Ave
Providence, RI 02908
- The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA. A student who wishes to ask the College to amend a record should submit a written request to the Records Office, clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed. If the College decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the College will notify the student of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. (For more information, see the section below entitled “Disclosure of Education Records.”)
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202
Please Note: Under FERPA, a school is not generally required to maintain particular education records or education records that contain specific information. Rather, a school is required to provide certain privacy protections for those education records that it does maintain. Also, unless there is an outstanding request by an eligible student to inspect and review education records, FERPA permits the school to destroy such records without notice to the student.
Disclosure with Written Consent
Under FERPA, the College may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from a student's education records to a third party, including parents, unless the student has provided written consent. The signed and dated written consent must specify the records that may be disclosed, state the purpose of the disclosure, and identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made. When a disclosure is made, if a student so requests, the College will provide the student with a copy of the records disclosed.
Disclosure without Consent
However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A “school official” is defined as a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person serving on the board of trustees; or a student serving on an official committee such as a disciplinary or grievance committee.
Other individuals who may be considered school officials include volunteers or contractors outside of the College who perform an institutional service of function for which the College would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the College with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records, such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent or a student volunteering to assist another school official in performing that official’s tasks. A school official typically has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill professional responsibilities for the College.
More Cases for Disclosure without Consent
Additionally, FERPA allows schools to disclose records, including PII, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions:
- To officials of another school where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer, subject to the requirements of FERPA.
- To authorized representatives of the U. S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local educational authorities, such as a state postsecondary authority that is responsible for supervising the College’s state-supported education programs. Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the requirements of FERPA, in connection with an audit or evaluation of federal- or state-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with federal legal requirements that relate to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf.
- In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, determine the amount of the aid, determine the conditions of the aid, or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
- To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the College, in order to: (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs; or (c) improve instruction.
- To accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions.
- To parents of a student if the student is a dependent for IRS tax purposes.
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena.
- To the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) for the purpose of allowing the INS to determine a student’s nonimmigrant status, provided that the student has signed Form I-20 and thereby provided consent to the release of educational information for this purpose.
- To appropriate officials in connection with a health or safety emergency, subject to FERPA.
- To a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, subject to the requirements of FERPA. The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to that alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding.
- To the general public, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding, subject to the requirements of FERPA, if the College determines the student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense and the student has committed a violation of the school’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation made against the student.
- To parents of a student regarding the student’s violation of any federal, state, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the College, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the College determines the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21.
Please Note: The College maintains a record in the student’s file listing to whom personally identifiable information was disclosed and the legitimate interests the party or parties had in obtaining the information. This does not apply to school officials with a legitimate educational interest or to directory information.
Additionally, the College may disclose, without consent, the following "directory" information about the student:
- telephone number
- email address
- honors and awards
- class level (freshman, sophomore, junior, senior or graduate)
- major and/or minor
- date and place of birth
- dates of attendance
- enrollment status (full-time, part-time or not enrolled)
- graduation date
Please Note: Students have the right to refuse to allow any or all such information about the student to be designated as directory information. Students can log in to My.RIC and update their FERPA restrictions for directory information. Otherwise, students must notify the Records Office in writing of such a request.
Common Scenarios to Consider
When a student comes to meet with a faculty member and brings parents, the student should provide written approval to include parents-otherwise the parents can wait outside the office.
- Parents who call cannot be given information without the student's written consent.
- Papers cannot be left in a pile to be picked up by students.
- Grades cannot be posted on a list that includes identifying information.
- If you have any questions contact the Director of Records at 401-456-8213.