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General Information

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 and outlines rules and guidelines for schools to release information on students. Under FERPA, educational records are defined as records directly related to a student as maintained by an education agency or institution, or by a party acting for the agency or institution.  The records can exist in any medium.  A student's FERPA rights begin when the student begins attending class (for incoming first-year students, it will be that first day of class).   

Student Rights under FERPA

Under FERPA, students have three basic rights:

  1. Access to education records
  2. Request for amendment of their education records
  3. Consent to disclosure of their education records
  4. File complaints with the U.S. Department of Education regarding University compliance.

Parents

At the post-secondary level, parents have no inherent rights to access or inspect their son's or daughter's education records (no matter what age the student is)--this right is limited solely to the student. At the University of Richmond, records may be released to parents only if they have been given a written release by the student, in compliance with a subpoena, or in special situations as defined by the law.  Those special situations include crisis/emergency situations and  instances involving the use of controlled substances or alcohol. The University has a team in place to make assessments and release appropriate information in these situations.    

The University does allow students to sign waiver cards.  The waiver cards allow students to give the University of Richmond permission to release non-directory information to their parents or other persons they name. If a student chooses to give permission to release information to his/her parents, the University will not automatically send grades or information out, but will answer questions (usually through the appropriate dean's office), should their parents contact us or should the University feel there is a compelling need to share that information.  If a student does not sign, s/he will be responsible for forwarding any grade or financial information (including bills) that s/he wants his/her parents to see. The release will remain on file and in effect throughout the tenure of the student at the University of Richmond or until rescinded by the student.

In BannerWeb, advisors may determine whether or not and to whom a student has authorized records released by accessing the student's address listing (Faculty Advisor->Student Menu->View Student Addresses and Phones).  Look for the RF (Registrar-FERPA Information) address type with one of four options: Waiver Completed with one or two names of individuals the student authorizes permission to release information to; Permission Not Granted when a student signs the card but does not give authorization to release information to anyone; Permission Rescinded when a student asks us to rescind previous authorizations; and No Waiver Received when no card is received from the student.

Directory Information

FERPA defines a class of information, called "directory information" that can be shared with anyone, including those outside the University, without the student's written permission (unless they have informed the Registrar's Office in writing that this information is confidential and should not be released). The things the University of Richmond considers directory information include:

  • Name
  • Addresses: permanent, campus, local (off-campus), email and campus computer network (IP) address and associated telephone numbers
  • Date and place of birth
  • School or college
  • Major and/or minor fields of study
  • Degree sought
  • Expected date of completion of degree requirements and graduation
  • Degrees conferred (including dates of conferral)
  • Awards and honors (e.g. Dean's list)
  • Full or part time enrollment status
  • Dates of attendance
  • Previous institutions attended
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of athletic team members
  • Photographic or videotaped images of the student 

Although FERPA permits institutions to share directory information publically without the student's consent, it does not require it.  Staff and faculty never have to respond to outside queries about students and should not provide student directory information to any third party for commercial use or solicitation of any product or service.

Good Practice

Access to a student's educational records by University faculty and staff is restricted to that portion of the record necessary for the discharge of assigned duties.  Good practice by faculty and staff members requires that they maintain, use, and report student data in compliance with the requirements of FERPA.  The following are some practical guidelines to follow:

  1. Do refer requests for student record information to the proper educational record custodian (listed at: http://registrar.richmond.edu/ferpa/statement/storage.html ).
  2. Do keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your teaching or advising responsibilities.
  3. Do keep any personal records relating to individual students separate from their educational records. Private notes of a professor or staff member concerning a student that are intended for the professor's or staff member's own use and are not available to a third party are not part of the student's educational record and would not be subject to student review if requested.
  4. Do properly dispose of all papers and documents that contain student ID's.  Shredding is the preferred method.
  5. Do use the University of Richmond's learning management system, Blackboard, or the student's University of Richmond email address when communicating electronically.
  6. Do use blind copies when emailing groups of students.
  7. Do Not leave your computer screen up when you are away from your desk.
  8. Do Not include the University ID in the subject line of an email message.
  9. Do Not forward email messages onward without checking the thread for sensitive information (e.g. student grades or personal information).
  10. Do Not display student scores or grades publicly in association with the student name, University ID number or other personal identifier.
  11. Do Not put papers or lab reports containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places.  Students should not have access to the scores and grades of others in the class.
  12. Do Not circulate class lists containing non-directory information, such as University ID numbers, for purposes of taking attendance. Instead, use a blank "sign in" sheet.
  13. Do Not conduct research using student information without first receiving approval from the University's Institutional Review Board and ensuring compliance with FERPA requirements.
  14. Do Not include value judgments or use inappropriate language in comments or notes stored in shared student files, since these comments and notes are considered part of the education record and are subject to the student's right to review.
  15. Do Not share student educational record information with other faculty or staff members of the University unless their official responsibilities provide for a "legitimate educational interest."
  16. Do Not share, by phone or correspondence, information from student educational records, including grades or grade-point averages, with parents or others outside the University, without written consent from the student.  
  17. For students requesting letters of recommendation a Request for Letter of Recommendation form is available to authorize inclusion of information from their education records.  (Note: FERPA does allow sharing of educational records with officials at other schools at which a student seeks to enroll as long as the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer.)

More Information

More information about the University of Richmond's FERPA policy can be found at: http://registrar.richmond.edu/ferpa/index.html  or by calling the Office of the University Registrar at (804) 289-8639.