Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and USA Patriot Act

FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children's education records and personal information. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are "eligible students." Records and information of students can only be released with consent of the eligible party. There are exceptions to FERPA's general prior consent rule that are set forth in the statute and the regulations. One exception is the disclosure of directory information, which is defined as follows:

FERPA defines "directory information" as information contained in the education records of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. Typically, "directory information" includes information such as name, address, and telephone listing, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and dates of attendance. A school may disclose "directory information" to third parties without consent if it has given public notice of the types of information which it has designated as "directory information, the eligible party has the right to restrict the disclosure of such information The means of public notification may include publication in various sources, including newsletter, local newspaper, or student handbook. The school may also include the "directory information" notification as part of the general notification of rights under FERPA. The school does not have to notify a parent or eligible student individually.

The USA Patriot Act of 2001 allows senior federal justice officials to obtain a court order requiring an institution to turn over educational records in connection with a terrorism investigation or prosecution. The request must be based on specific facts, giving reason to believe that the records are likely to contain relevant information. The information-gathering powers of the USA Patriot Act apply only to a crime of terrorism. Law enforcement officials seeking educational records in connection with any other crime still must obtain a subpoena.

If a student wishes to restrict access to directory information to others not specified in the FERPA and USA Patriot Act, a written notice should be submitted to the Vice President of Student Life, preferably before completion of registration for the first term of the academic year.

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