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FERPA

Frequently Asked Questions

What is FERPA?

  • FERPA is an acronym for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. (20 U.S.C. 1232g, 34 CFR § 99)
  • FERPA is a federal law, also known as the Buckley Amendment.
  • FERPA protects the privacy of a student's education records.

 Why should I care about FERPA?

  • If a member of the university violates FERPA, the Department of Education could take away the university's student federal funding.
  • Violation of FERPA may constitute grounds for staff dismissal.
  • It's the right thing to do. Our students depend on us to keep their academic information confidential.

 What are the FERPA basics?

  • Student education records are considered confidential and may not be released without the written consent of the student.
  • As a faculty or staff member you have a responsibility to protect education records in your possession.
  • Some information (called "Directory Information") can be released without the student's written permission. However, the student may opt to consider this information confidential as well. Before releasing any Directory Information, you should consult with the University Registrar's Office to determine whether the student has chosen to not disclose and to insure any release is consistent with University policy.
  • You have access to information only for legitimate use in completion of your responsibilities as a university employee. Legitimate educational need to know is the basic principle.
  • If you are ever in doubt, do not release any information until you talk to the office responsible for student records. Contact the University Registrar's Office at registrar@case.edu, or refer the request to that office.

 What is Directory Information?

Information, the release of which is not normally considered a violation of a person's privacy. It may be disclosed without a student’s written consent unless a student has requested that this information not be released.

 What is considered Directory Information at CWRU?

  • Name (including both maiden name and married name, where applicable)
  • Address, telephone listing, and electronic mail address
  • Date and place of birth
  • Major field of study
  • Anticipated graduation date
  • Enrollment Status (undergraduate or graduate, full-time or part-time)
  • Dates of attendance
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Participation in officially recognized sports and activities
  • Weight and height (members of athletic teams)

 What else should I know about Directory Information?

  • If you do not have a way of knowing whether or not a student has requested confidentiality of directory information, do not release it.
  • Just because you may does not mean you should. The university considers a student's right to privacy to be very important and does not routinely share directory information with third parties.
  • To request that directory information be made confidential, the student should notify (in writing) the Office of the University Registrar.
  • If a student requests confidentiality of directory information, it is all-or-nothing. In other words, not even the student's name will appear in on-line directories.

 Who is protected under FERPA?

The rights under FERPA apply to eligible students. An eligible student is any individual who is or has been in attendance at Case Western Reserve University.

 What constitutes a student's education record?

  • The definition of an education record under FERPA is broad. It essentially refers to any record that is directly related to a student and that is kept by the University or someone acting on behalf of the University from which an individual student, or students, can be personally (individually) identified.
  • This can include: files, documents and materials in any medium (handwritten, tape, disks, film, microfilm, microfiche, etc.)
  • Written permission must be obtained from a student before releasing an education record, unless the request fits certain narrow exceptions. See CWRU's Academic Records Privacy statement.
  • When in doubt, assume that the item, if it relates to a student, is an education record and seek further assistance

 What are the student's rights under FERPA?

  • Subject to FERPA exclusions, the right to see the information that the institution is keeping on the student.
  • The right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record.
  • The right to consent to disclosure of his/her records.
  • The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

What about parental rights?

  • When a student reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a postsecondary institution regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the student.
  • Parents may obtain directory information at the discretion of the institution.
  • Parents may obtain non-directory information (grades, GPA, etc.) only at the discretion of the institution AND after it has been documented that their child is legally their dependent.
  • The Office of Undergraduate Studies maintains signed consent from students who have chosen to allow release of non-directory information to parents. Parents of undergraduate students should be referred to the Office of Undergraduate Studies. More from the Office of Undergraduate Studies on student Privacy.

What about spousal rights?

The spouse has no rights under FERPA to access the student’s education record.

Who may I contact if I have questions about FERPA?

Please contact the University Registrar’s Office at 216.368.4310 or by e-mail (preferred) at registrar@case.edu.

Where do I find CWRU's full FERPA policy?

See Case Western Reserve University's interpretation of FERPA.