FERPA for Faculty and Staff

What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (also known as the Buckley Amendment) is a Federal Law that helps protect the privacy of student education records. The Act provides students the right to inspect and review education records, the right to seek to amend those records, and the right to limit disclosure of information from the records. The intent of the legislation is to protect the rights of students and to ensure the privacy and accuracy of education records. The Act applies to all institutions that are recipients of federal aid administered by the Secretary of Education.

When do FERPA rights begin?
FERPA governs and protects students' rights to their individual educational records. Their FERPA rights begin when they enroll; that is, when the student has scheduled classes.  

What information about students may be released to faculty members and University staff members?
Items defined as directory information may be released without a student's written permission, provided that the student has not chosen to restrict his or her directory information. All other personally identifiable information in a student's educational record is confidential and may be disclosed to appropriate faculty and staff members only if their normal job duties require such access.

What is Directory Information?
Directory Information is information contained in an education record of a student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.

The University of Nebraska at Kearney has defined the following items as Directory Information. These items may be released upon request unless the student specifically requests otherwise by submitting written notification to the Office of the Registrar.

  • Student's name
  • Student's major field of study
  • Student's current enrollment status
  • Student's participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Dates of student's attendance
  • Degrees, awards, and honors received by the student
  • The most recent previous educational institution attended by the student

UNK will not disclose any other information without written consent from the student. Students have the right to refuse the disclosure of their directory information subject to other overriding provisions of law. To withhold directory information, students must complete a Request to Prevent Disclosure of Information form in the Office of the Registrar.

If a student has chosen to restrict the release of directory information, NO information can be released without further written permission of the student. Should someone inquire about an individual who has restricted the release of his/her directory information, the appropriate faculty/staff response is, "I am sorry, I do not have any information on any such person."

If students have restricted the release of directory information, you will see a special notation on the screen when you access their records in MyBLUE.

Am I required to release information from a student's education record?
FERPA regulations state that you MAY release directory information about a student, but FERPA does not require or compel you to do so.

What about subpoenas?
If you receive a subpoena regarding a student's education record, please contact the Office of the Registrar before you respond. There are FERPA regulations that the University must comply with before responding to subpoenas or court orders.

May I release confidential information to officially registered student groups?
Student groups do NOT have a legitimate educational interest and consequently may not be given confidential information about a student or students without each student's express written permission.

May I access confidential information about students?
Access to personally identifiable information contained in educational records may be given to appropriate campus administrators, faculty members, or staff members who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. Faculty members do not have access to student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access, such as, to records on their assigned advisees. This type of access is termed "legitimate educational interest."

How does FERPA affect letters of recommendation?
Writing a letter of recommendation may require express written permission from the student to allow you 1) to access the student's educational records, and, 2) to disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member may access a student's educational records without the student's express written permission only if specific job duties, such as the duties of an academic advisor, require access to those records. However, a faculty member, or any other appropriate campus official, may not disclose confidential information from a student's educational records to a third party without express written permission from the student. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed without the student's consent. Click here to access a Release Form for Student References. 

What information about students may I disclose to parents?
Without the express written permission of the student, parents, like all other third parties, may have access only to the student's directory information. If a student has restricted his or her directory information, then the directory information is considered confidential and you should respond to any inquiries by stating "I have no information on an individual by that name." Confidential information may be released to parents only with the express written permission of the student.

Please feel free to contact the Office of the Registrar for a confidentiality release form that can be used to allow a conversation with the parents or any third party. The student signs the form, indicating the records that may be released and the timeframe. You may also refer parents seeking information from their students' education records to the Office of the Registrar.

Does FERPA affect the return of an assignment?
Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student's express written permission. Therefore, extreme care should be used to protect such information (e.g., student scores, ID numbers) when returning assignments, term papers and exams to students.

Does FERPA affect the posting of grades?
University policy prohibits the disclosure of any confidential student information in a personally identifiable manner without the student's written consent. Faculty members may use student-specific, password-protected systems (such as Blackboard) to communicate academic work, grades or other confidential information to students on an individual basis.

How do I properly dispose of confidential information?
Dispose of all material containing confidential information (such as tests, papers, class rosters) by shredding or by placing them in a receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.

FERPA Questions or Concerns should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

Office of the Registrar
Warner Hall
(308) 865-8527
unkregistrar@unk.edu