FERPA: Information for Faculty/Staff

It is Your Responsibility!

You may not disclose personally identifiable information from education records to persons other than the student in question and a University official who has a legitimate educational interest.

Examples of appropriate use/ legitimate educational interests are:

  • performing a task that is related to the student’s education;
  • providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student’s family, such as housing, health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid;
  • performing a task related to the discipline of a student;
  • maintaining the safety and security of the campus; or
  • performing a task related to the effective functioning of the University.

As a general principle, you may not disclose student information in oral, written, or electronic form to anyone except KSU staff and faculty who need the information to perform their university functions.

You have a legal responsibility under FERPA to protect the privacy of the student education records in your possession, classified as confidential information under KSU's Data Security Policy. You may not access education records for personal reasons.

Please view the FERPA for Faculty and Staff brochure.

  • Under FERPA, education records are defined as any personally identifiable information that is directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency, institution, or party acting for the agency or institution. Education records can exist in any medium, including, but not limited to, typewritten, hand-written, computer generated, videotape, audiotape, film, microfilm, microfiche, and email. 

    Education records do not include: 

    Sole possession records, i.e., records/notes in sole possession of the maker, used only as a personal memory aid and not revealed or accessible to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.

    1. Medical treatment records that include, but are not limited to, records maintained by physicians, psychiatrists, and psychologists.
    2. Employment records, unless employment is based on student status, i.e. a graduate teaching assistant or work-study student.
    3. Law enforcement records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit.
    4. Post-attendance records, i.e., information about a person that was obtained when the person was no longer a student (alumni records) and not related to the person as a student.
  • Student education records are considered confidential and should not be released to any person without the written consent of the student, unless the disclosure meets one of the exceptions to signed consent found in FERPA. University officials are granted access to student information only for “legitimate educational interest” -- completion of job responsibilities. They have a responsibility to protect the confidentiality of education records in their possession, regardless of the medium in which the records are stored or presented. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks (teaching assistant, research assistant, graduate assistant, workstudy). Unauthorized release of student record data without written consent of the student may trigger legal sanctions.

    At KSU, examples of student record information that generally should not be disclosed without prior written consent of the student are:

    • Social Security Number/KSU Student ID Number
    • KSU Student Email address
    • Grades, Credits hours (attempted or earned)
    • Grade Point Averages
    • Email Addresses
    • Enrollment status (part/full time)
    • Residency Status
    • Tuition and Fee Payment Records
    • Financial Aid Records
    • Marital status
    • Race
    • Gender
    • Citizenship
    • Parent’s Name and Address
    • Current Class Schedule
    • Disciplinary Actions
    • Academic Actions
       
      Employees may not disclose information contained in education records without the student’s consent, except under certain limited conditions. For example, the University may disclose what is considered to be “directory” information unless the student has restricted disclosure of such information. Institutions are not required by FERPA to disclose directory information. When in doubt, do not release information.

    If a student has restricted the disclosure of directory information, the word “CONFIDENTIAL” will appear in Banner and Owl Express. 

  • You cannot disclose information contained in education records without the student’s consent, except under certain limited conditions. For example, KSU can release “directory information”, unless the student restricts disclosure of such information. FERPA does not require you to disclose any information. When in doubt, do not release information!

    If a student restricts the disclosure of directory information, the word “CONFIDENTIAL” appears in Banner Administrative Pages (Figure 1) and the Advising Guide in Owl Express (Figure 2)

    banner warning

     

    Figure 1: Banner Administrative Pages Message Notification indicating student’s record is confidential. Directory information cannot be disclosed to anyone other than the student

    guide example

    Figure 2: Confidential flag indicator in the Advising Guide on Owl Express. Directory information cannot be disclosed to anyone other than the student.

    Starting in Fall 2019, the Student Consent to Disclosure Form in Owl Express offers students a new way to grant parents/guests access to their education records. Completed Student Consent to Disclosure forms can be viewed by Advisors, Faculty and Staff in Owl Express as well. Please see the Student Consent to Disclosure page for more information.

  • When a student begins attending a post secondary institution, regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the student. Concerns such as progress in a course, deficiencies in a subject area, scores and grades on papers, exams, etc. are all examples of personally identifiable information that constitute part of the student's education record. Post secondary schools (such as KSU) are not required by FERPA to release or provide access to this information to a student’s parent or legal guardian and, in fact, may not do so except under the following conditions.
    1. A student provides written authorization to the Registrar’s Office that specifically identifies what information may be released to the parent(s). The Student Consent to Disclosure Form helps facilitate this request. The student will complete the form through Owl Express, and access can be viewed by the faculty/staff member. More information can be found on the Student Consent to Disclosure form website. In the event the student no longer has access to Owl Express (ex. Alumni), there is a One-Time authorization form available.

      Student Consent Form

    One-Time Student Consent to Disclosure form

    1. The parent(s) establish that the student is a dependent according to the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, Section 152. Parents should  be directed to the Office of the Regsitrar to submit supporting tax documents.
  • The public posting of grades by the student's name, Social Security Number or KSU Student ID number is a violation of FERPA. This includes the posting of grades to a class/institutional website and applies to any public posting of grades for students taking distance education courses. Even without the name, using a KSU Student I.D. number or any part of a Social Security Number violates FERPA, as the information may be personally identifiable to the student. Faculty can use code words or randomly assigned numbers that only the instructor and individual student know. Even then, the posting of grades should not be in alphabetical order. 
    • Students should be directed to Owl Express to view final course grades. Final course grades posted via Owl Express will appear immediately on the student’s Advising Guide.
    • Assignments and papers that contain "personally identifiable" information should not be distributed to the student in a way that would allow other students to view the information. Graded papers should not be left unattended in an office or classroom for students to sort through or returned to students via another student. Both of these examples are a violation of FERPA. A possible solution would be to leave the exams, quizzes, etc. with an assistant or secretary who requests proper identification prior to distributing the information to the student.
    • Note: An inadvertent and unauthorized release of grades to someone other than the student is a violation of FERPA.
  • As an employee, you may be asked to write a letter of recommendation for students seeking admission to programs or in support of a job application. Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person’s personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student who is the subject of the recommendation. However, if personal identifiable information obtained from a student’s educational record is included in a letter of recommendation (courses taken, grades, GPA and other non-directory information) the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student, unless the letter is released to the student for distribution. The signed release must specify the records to be disclosed, the purpose of the disclosure and the party to whom the disclosure can be made. If the letter of recommendation is kept on file by the person writing the recommendation, then it becomes part of the student’s education record and the student has the right to read it unless he/she has specifically waived that right of access.
    • DO keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your job responsibilities. Private notes of a faculty/staff member concerning a student and intended for a faculty/staff member’s own use are not part of the student’s education record. However, emails from one school official to another concerning a student are considered education records, if either official maintains them.
    • DO forward all judicial orders, subpoenas or other written requests for data access to the Office of Legal Affairs, immediately upon receipt.
    • DO direct all student information requests in the case of an emergency to Public Safety at 470.578.6666.
    • DO help prevent the unauthorized use of KSU student email addresses. KSU has not designated student email addresses as “directory information”. When using any email utility to send email messages to students, always use the “BC” (Blind Copy) option. 
    • DO encrypt any computer files stored or any device containing any personally identifiable information that directly relates to a student.
    • DO properly discard any reports/computer files containing student personal identifiable information.
    • DO refer student education record requests to the appropriate record custodian. Only the record custodian may release a student’s education record information to a third party. Below is a list of KSU records/custodians. 
    • DON'T link a student’s name with his/her social security number, KSU ID number, or any portion of these numbers, in any manner.
    • DON'T use a portion of or the entire Social Security Number or KSU Student ID number in any public manner.
    • DON'T share information from student education records (including grades, grade point averages, class rosters) with individuals outside the university.
    • DON'T provide student schedules or assist anyone other than university employees in finding a student on campus. Refer such inquiries to Campus Police.
    • DON'T share your user id and password to Owl Express or Banner Administrative Pages with anyone.
    • DON'T store student’s personal identifiable information on your desktop computer or in portable electronic devices. If storage of personal identifiable information is required, ensure proper security measures (file encryption and disposal) are in place to protect access by third parties. 
    • DON'T disclose information to a student or university official before authenticating the identity of the person.
    • DON'T send confidential information, such as grades, with a non-KSU email account.This can only occur to and from KSU email accounts.
    • DON'T permit students to sort through stacks of graded tests/papers in order to retrieve their own paper. This is in violation of other student’s FERPA rights.
    • DON'T include confidential information such as grades or GPA in a recommendation without the written consent of the student.
    • DON'T discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student or the student’s advisor without the consent of the student.
    • DON'T access the records of any student for personal reasons.
  • Scenario 1:  Johnny Appleseed has a full schedule and cannot see the Dance Department Chair, Dr. Chapman, during normal office hours. Johnny emails the chair of the department and says, “Please talk to my dad, Nate. Here is his email”. Dr. Chapman is willing to talk with the parent and informs Johnny that he needs to submit the Student Consent for Disclosure form to the Office of the Registrar. Dr. Chapman schedules an appointment with Nate. The day of the appointment Dr. Chapman confirms the Office of the Registrar has a Student Consent for Disclosure form on file granting permission to discuss with Johnny’s father, Nate, academic records and housing information.  After authenticating the identity of Nate, Dr. Chapman feels comfortable to speak with Nate about Johnny’s academic progress.

    In this scenario, Dr. Chapman did everything he could to protect Johnny’s FERPA rights and he could safely discuss Johnny’s education records. Remember, when in doubt, contact the Office of the Registrar or do not discuss.

    Scenario 2: George Cohen wants to appeal a course grade and he wishes to talk with the Department Chair, Dr. Tobias. He schedules an appointment and decides to bring his mother, Irene, to the meeting.  Since the student is present, Dr. Tobias knows he can discuss George’s concern in front of Irene. However, he prefers that there is a Student Consent for Disclosure form on file. He asks George to sign the form, verifies the IDs of George and Irene, and continues with the meeting. Afterwards, Dr. Tobias forwards the form to the Office of the Registrar to be added into the student’s file.

    FERPA governs what may be released, but does not require that any information be released. In addition, FERPA provides guidelines in order to safeguard the student’s information and your release of such information. You have the right to not disclose information or speak with anyone that is not the student.

    Scenario 3: Dr. O’Brien receives a request from a former student, Ralph, to write a letter of recommendation for graduate school. Dr. O’Brien vividly remembers this student’s work ethic and potential in his class. When drafting the letter he realizes that he should add Ralph’s course grades and his GPA.

    Statements made from personal observation or knowledge do not require written consent from the student.

    If personally identifiable information is included in the letter of recommendation (e.g. attempted courses, grades earned, GPA and other non-directory information), and the letter is not released directly to the student for distribution, the writer is required to obtain written consent from the student specifying:

      • personally identifiable information may be disclosed;
      • the purpose of the disclosure;
      • to whom the disclosure may be made

    NOTE:  If the person writing the recommendation keeps the letter of recommendation on file, then it becomes part of the student’s education record and the student has the right to read it, unless he/she has specifically waived that right of access.

      • FERPA rights for KSU students begin once they are enrolled in any courses offered by KSU, at any location or through any method of delivery (i.e., campus/on-site, hybrid, partially online and fully online) are covered by FERPA. KSU considers an admitted student to be in attendance upon enrollment/registration for classes.
      • You cannot discuss any specific student information through email, even if there is a Student Consent to Disclosure form on file for the parent/third party.
      • View the Student Consent to Disclousure Admin View in Owl Express or contact the Office of the Registrar to verify if a student has submitted consent for a parent or third party to discuss certain education records.
      • In the event that the student and parent/third party is in a Department Chair’s office, the student can complete the Student Consent to Disclosure. It is at the discretion of the Department Chair to continue the conversation with or without the student present.
      • Prior to speaking with a parent/third party via phone or visual electronic methods (Webex video, Skype video, FaceTime video, etc.), you must confirm consent is provided by viewing the Student Consent to Disclousure Admin View in Owl Express and authenticate the identity of the parent/third party.
      • In an attempt to discuss education records of a son/daughter, should a parent submit tax documents in lieu of the Student Consent for Disclosure form, please direct them to the Office of the Registrar.
      • Student information must not be stored on laptops or home computers, unless encrypted. Mobile Devices (including tablets and phones) used to access confidential data must be configured to lock and require a passcode/biometric ID to unlock.
      • Do not release lists or files containing student information to any third party outside your college or departmental unit.
      • Student information should not be stored on laptops or home computers, unless encrypted. Personal digital assistants used to read confidential data should be password protected.
      • Dispose student information in paper format by shredding or placing in a locked disposal bin.
      • Any Open Records requests must be forwarded immediately upon receipt to the KSU Office of Legal Affairs for initial response on behalf of the University.
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