FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

Advisors should be aware that a federal law, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, and amended in 1998, establishes certain rights for students with regard to the student’s education record. In brief, the Act provides students the right to inspect their personal education records (with some exceptions), the opportunity to contest the contents of their records, and protection from unauthorized disclosure of their education records to third parties outside the University. Basically, the university is not permitted to disclose personally identifiable information from the student’s education record without the prior written consent of the student, or only under acceptable disclosure provisions in FERPA.

The Student Handbook has further information.

Scenario examples

  • Scenario:You receive a phone call from an advisee’s mother inquiring about how her daughter is doing at PSU, whether she is attending classes, what her grades are, her current academic status, etc. What can you tell her?Answer: It is possible to discuss some things with the parent if it is in relation to general policies or procedures rather than directly related to the student. The best suggestion would be for the parent and student to set up an appointment with you to come to campus to meet and discuss whatever the student wishes to talk about. Additionally, it would be ideal to have your advisee give you written consent to speak to his/her parents.
  • Scenario: A young man, describing himself as the boyfriend of one of our students, comes to an administrative office. He says he has left his wallet in a student’s car and needs desperately to find her. He asks for her class schedule so that he can locate her.Answer: No! You should refer the individual to University Police.
  • Scenario:Parents appear at a departmental office and ask for the names and office numbers of their son’s advisor and instructors.Answer: No—They should be advised to call their student, and the student may take his parents to the various offices, if he chooses to do so.
  • Scenario: A student approaches a professor and tells her that he thinks an error has been made in determining his semester grade. He demands to see his attendance record, class grades, and evaluative comments in the professor’s grade book.Answer: Student may see the records, but the other student’s records must be blocked out. However, it is not required that you show the student.
  • Scenario: A father appears at the office and demands to change his daughter’s major.Answer: No, students must personally make any changes.
  • Scenario: A priest appears at an office. He says he needs to notify one of our students of a tragedy in the student’s family. He asks for the student’s campus address, telephone number and class schedule—and a campus map.Answer: University Police should be notified so an officer can get the student.

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