The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act: Guidance for Members of the Faculty and Staff

If you have any questions regarding FERPA or the guidance below please e-mail FERPA@yale.edu.

 

Introduction

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) is a federal law with three purposes:

  • Ensuring that students have an opportunity to review their own education records
  • Providing students with a process for requesting amendments to their education records
  • Protecting the confidentiality of students’ education records

The Right to Review: In regard to the first purpose, FERPA requires Yale to provide students with an opportunity to review their education records within 45 days after they make a request to do so.

Requesting Amendments:  If students believe that their education records are inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their privacy rights, they can request amendments.  If Yale declines to make requested changes, students may request a hearing.

Confidentiality:  Yale is forbidden to disclose students’ education records without their written permission, unless the disclosure fits into one of several exceptions to the confidentiality requirement.

A Key Point about the Rights to Review and Request Amendment: 

  • Refer Students to the Registrar: At Yale, the University Registrar and the registrars of the professional schools are responsible for the formal FERPA review, amendment, and hearing processes.  If students ask to review or amend their education records as an explicit exercise of their rights under FERPA, please refer them to the registrar of their school. 
 

FERPA Confidentiality in Brief

Two Key Definitions:

  • Education Records:  A record directly related to an identifiable student and maintained by Yale or a party acting for Yale.  There are a few types of records that are carved out of this definition, and they are discussed below.
  • Student:  Anyone who is or has been in attendance at Yale.  A person is considered to be “in attendance” at Yale – and therefore a Yale “student” – on the first day of classes for the program in which the person is enrolled.

Two Key Confidentiality Requirements:

  • Student’s Written Consent to Disclose Records:  You may not disclose a student’s education records unless the student has provided a signed and dated written consent that specifies the records that may be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure, and the party to whom the disclosure may be made.
  • Educational Need:  You are forbidden to read a student’s education record unless you have a “legitimate educational interest” in the record.  You have a legitimate educational interest in a record if you need the record in order to fulfill your professional responsibility at Yale.

Three Key Exceptions to the Consent Requirement:

  • The Student:  In the normal course of your work at Yale, you may disclose to a student that student’s education records (graded course work, bursar bills, etc.), and there is no need for the student to provide a written consent. 
  • Other School Officials:  FERPA allows you to share a student’s education records with other members of the Yale faculty and staff (“School Officials”) who have a legitimate educational interest in reading the record.
  • Health or Safety:  If, in light of all the surrounding circumstances, you identify a significant health or safety threat, FERPA allows you to disclose a student’s education records to anyone who may need the records to respond to the threat.  In addition, the exception for “Other School Officials” allows you to discuss health or safety concerns about a student with other Yale faculty or staff members who are in a position to provide help or advice.  Finally, your personal observations of a student’s behavior are not protected education records and may also be shared if you have health or safety concerns about the student.

The Key Point about the Other 13 Exceptions:

  • Consult the Registrar:  FERPA includes 13 other exceptions to the consent-to-disclose requirement.  Please consult the registrar of the student’s school before disclosing a student’s record to anyone other than the student, a colleague with a legitimate educational interest, or someone who can assist with an urgent health or safety concern. 

If you have any questions regarding FERPA or the guidance above please e-mail FERPA@yale.edu.