Family Educational Rights & Privacy Act (FERPA)
FERPA and Virtual Instruction
One-on-one communications between students and their instructors/advisors can be challenging in a virtual environment. Often times, information that needs to be shared might include the student’s academic performance or other personally identifiable information (PII), which are all protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It is important to secure these communications as much as possible. FERPA protected data should never be sent via email or social media, as this is not a secure method of transmitting sensitive data. Please see https://www.registrar.iastate.edu/policies/sensitive-student-info for more information.
Notification of Rights Under FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords eligible students certain rights with respect to their education records. (An “eligible student” under FERPA is a student who is 18 years of age or older or who attends a postsecondary institution.) These rights include:
1. The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days of the day the University receives a request for access.
Students should submit to the Office of the Registrar written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The Registrar will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the Office of the Registrar, the Registrar shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
2. 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.
Students may ask the University to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the their privacy rights under FERPA. They should write the University official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their FERPA privacy rights. FERPA was not intended to provide a process to be used to question substantive judgments that are correctly recorded. The right to seek an amendment of an education record is not intended to allow students to contest, for example, a grade in a course because they felt a higher grade should have been assigned.
If the University decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the University will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her 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.
3. The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information (PII) contained in the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
One exception which permits disclosure without consent is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official may also include a person or company, consultant, or volunteer (such as an attorney, auditor, collection agency, representative of the ISU Foundation or official of the National Student Clearinghouse) with whom the University has contracted to perform on an outsourced basis an institutional service or function for which the school would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records. 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.
4. Generally, schools must have written permission from the student before releasing any information from a student's educational record. However, the law allows schools to disclose records, without consent of the student, to the following parties:
- Information the University has designated as directory or public information
- University employees who have a legitimate need to know
- Persons who need to know in cases of health and safety emergencies
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
- Individuals who have lawfully obtained court orders or subpoenas
- Accrediting organizations to carry out accrediting functions
- Organizations conducting educational studies for the University
- Other schools to which a student is applying, transferring or intending to enroll or where the student is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to application, enrollment or transfer
- Courts during litigation between the University and the student or parent
- Victim of crime of violence after final results of a disciplinary hearing
- Public after disciplinary proceedings determine student committed crime of violence
- Parents of dependent students as defined by the Internal Revenue Code
- Parents of a student regarding violation of any federal, state, local law, or policy of the school governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if it is determined that the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21
- Federal, State and local governmental officials for purposes authorized by law. (Note: 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.)
5. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the University to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
In many situations, complaints relative to FERPA can be resolved within the University on an informal basis. Any student who wishes to discuss a FERPA complaint may contact the Registrar, 214 Enrollment Services Center.
To file a FERPA complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, contact the Office that administers FERPA at:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW.
Washington, DC, 20202