Faculty/Staff Resources & FAQs
Do's and Don'ts
- DO educate yourself regarding FERPA, your responsibilities.
- DO check out additional FERPA Training and Resources
- DO authenticate your student's identity before discussing their educational record.
- DON'T leave your computer open where anyone can view a student's information.
- DON'T speak with any person other than the student if you have any question regarding their access to the student's record.
- DON'T email a group of your students where their email addresses are visible to other students. If emailing in this fashion, be sure to use the BCC (blind carbon copy) feature.
- DON'T at any time use the K-State WID or EMPL ID of a student in a public posting of grades.
- DO contact the Office of the Registrar or the Office of General Counsel with any FERPA related questions.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Can I record attendance by passing around the student class roster?
Yes, only with the student names. If the roster has other information on it such as WID/EMPLID or photos then NO as that is personal identifiable information that is protected under FERPA.
A student e-mailed asking for a status on how they are doing in my class. Is it okay to email the student a status and grades?
When you receive a request from a student about the status of their grade or work in the course you can respond as appropriate. To ensure compliance with FERPA, you should only send back to the official K-State email - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. By only responding to the K-state email, we know that the student has to authenticate to access their K-State email which for us is a form of authenticating their identity. It is very much like them being there in person and asking for that information.
If for any reason you are uncomfortable with the information being asked of you, you can err on the side of caution. It can be acceptable for those on-campus students to indicate to the student that you would prefer they come in person or just provide back to the student that they are currently passing the course. If there is a failing grade or area of concern, it may be better to advise the student to make an appointment (in-person or online if applicable) during office hours to discuss their grade.
I have a group of students who are doing poorly in my class (i.e., failed the last exam, not sure they can pass at this point) - can I send a group e-mail advising on status and next steps?
At a very high level, YES you can e-mail these students to advise that they are in danger of doing poorly or that you would like to meet with them to discuss options based on their current academic status in your course.
HOWEVER, remember to BCC (Blind Copy) the students instead of listing them in the TO or CC line. This will keep the other students in the course from seeing others academic status' in your course and ensures you are not in violation of FERPA.
Can I post grades on my office door?
This is only acceptable if the grades are associated with a randomly generated numeric identifier known and available only to you and the student; this list must not be arranged by alphabetic order. Never post the list using Social Security numbers or K-State WIDs or EMPLIDs.
Can I release information to a K-State Office that inquires about a student in my course?
It is possible that you will receive inquiries from K-State offices charged with tracking certain student populations. Some of the more common inquiries will come from Athletics (Compliance or Student Support) or the Student Access Center (SAC). These are very legitimate inquiries and under FERPA you are able to share information as appropriate.
- Please make sure that you have the requesting employees information for your own documentation - their entire email signature is necessary.
- Regarding Athletics, it's very important that any student information released be to Compliance or Student Athlete Services staff charged with monitoring and handling athletic compliance.
- It is not appropriate to release information directly to coaches without permission from the Compliance Department.
A student asked me to write a letter of recommendation. Is this okay?
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.
However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student's educational record is included in the letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer - whether a faculty member or department employee - is required to obtain a signed release from the student (via their UWF email or in written form) which (1) specifies the records that may be disclosed, (2) states the purpose of the disclosure, and (3) identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made. If this letter of recommendation is kept on file by the person writing it, it would be part of the student's educational record, and the student has the right to read it unless he or she has waived that right to access.
Sample student release -
I give permission to Prof. Smith to write a letter of recommendation to:
324 Wilkins Drive
Atlanta, GA 33011
Prof Smith has my permission to include my GPA and grades.
I waive (or do not waive) my right to review a copy of this letter at any time in the future.
**The release is considered a permanent part of the students file and should be attached/documented along with a copy of the recommendation letter. This can be added to the students file in the Document Imaging system via the academic college's imaging repository or to the students academic notes in SSC Navigate.
What qualifies as a legitimate educational interest?
FERPA DOES NOT assume that all school officials have a legitimate educational interest in all student records. To assume they do would effectively render the statutory requirement meaningless.
However, a “legitimate educational interest” exists if the school official needs to have access to the records in order to do his or her job—which does not necessarily depend on the student’s area of study. Section 99.7(a)(3)(iii) of FERPA requires each institution to include in its annual notice to students if it has a policy of disclosing education records under section 99.31(a)(1), and a specification of criteria for determining what constitutes a school official and what constitutes a legitimate educational interest.
The FERPA statute has always required that school officials’ access to the education records of a particular student or category of students be limited to circumstances where the official has a legitimate educational interest in those records. Given the ubiquity of electronic records, the FERPA regulations were amended in 2009 to clarify and reinforce the “legitimate educational interest” requirement (see sec. 99.31(a)(1)(ii))—whether the records were hardcopies or electronic.
So, if you are unsure we suggest you pick up the Phone and contact the Office of the Registrar for Assistance. We will help you work through the inquiry and determine if it meets this criteria.
I have been told that I may not include information aobut top-notch students in the department's annual report. Is this correct?
The answer is perhaps. It would be a FERPA violation to include information about any student who has directed the university not to release his/her information. Additionally, without advance written consent, it would be a violation to disclose grades or performance indicators for any student. If you obtain written permission from each student, it would be permissible to include the information. The department would need to retain the written permission as documentation about the release.
What is the right way for me to respond to a subpoena, court order or request from a law enforcement professional for records?
All requests for student information, whether by subpoena, court order or authorization, should be sent to the Office of the Registrar or the Office of General Counsel for review and processing. If the request calls for more information than is available directly from the Office of the Registrar, those materials will be gathered together under the direction of the Office of General Counsel and submitted as a package in response to the request. Do not be intimidated by a badge. Refer all inquiries to the Office of the Registrar or the Office of General Counsel.
May I disclose information form a Student's Education Record to Protect Health or Safety?
Yes. FERPA permits the disclosure of information from student educational records "to appropriate parties in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals." For example, if a student sends an email to his resident assistant disclosing that he has just been diagnosed with a highly contagious disease such as measles, the institution could alert the student's roommate, and perhaps others with whom the student has come in close contact, to urge them to seek appropriate testing and medical care. Safety concerns warranting disclosure could include a student's suicidal statements or ideations, unusually erratic and angry behaviors, or similar conduct that others would reasonably see as posing a risk of serious harm to the student and to others.
This exception does not authorize "broadcast" disclosures, but a limited disclosure to a limited number of people, made in good-faith, in light of the facts available at the time. Such disclosure is highly unlikely to be deemed a violation of FERPA, even if the perceived emergency later turns out not to have been one. In general and when reasonably possible, the initial disclosure should be made to professionals trained to evaluate and handle such emergencies, such as campus mental health or law enforcement personnel, who can then determine whether further and broader disclosures are appropriate.
It is always recommended that if you are unsure to contact the Office of the Registrar or Office of General Counsel for assistance.
What are the penalties for Violating FERPA Regulations?
The Federal Family Policy Compliance Office reviews and investigates complaints of violations of FERPA. If the Secretary of Education finds that an institution has failed to comply with FERPA and determines that compliance cannot be secured by any means, he/she can, among other options, direct that no federal funds under his or her administrative control (financial aid, education grants, etc.) be made available to that institution.
Internally, depending on the servity of the violation you may be asked to attend/participate in an updated FERPA training, to loss of system access, etc...
If a student makes an advising appointment, is a no-show but the parent attends in place of the student - Is that a FERPA issue?
Yes. Although a student may have granted consent for access to the parent that does not grant the parent the right to act on behalf of the student. In this case, an advising appointment is a transaction between the student and academic advisor for purposes of discussing their academic progress. A student may elect for a parent or other interested party to join them, but they cannot send the parent or third party in their place of that appointment.
If this happens, it is best to advise the parent and/or third party that consent for access under FERPA grants the university the right to have a conversation with them, but it does not grant them the right to act in the students place, especially attending an academic advising session in the students stead.
If a student grants permission/release of student information to a parent/third-party, what exactly does that include?
If you have obtained written permission (typcially via K-State e-mail) from a student to release/discussion a students education record this permission only allows for conversation. Consent or adding a delegate (Billing and/or Financial Aid only) does not give that person the ability to make decisions or request that an action/transaction occur without the student involved.