Build stronger FERPA sleuthing skills

woman with magnifying glassAt first glance, FERPA seems straightforward: Protect private information. Don’t give it out without express written permission.

But that’s never the whole story, and the nuances of FERPA can turn a simple information request into an unnavigable legal maze. AACRAO can help you follow the clues and crack the case.

Track down leads

When you have a FERPA-related request, the first thing you must do is figure out what area of the law is applicable, says AACRAO senior fellow and FERPA expert LeRoy Rooker.

“There are three primary rights at stake in FERPA,” Rooker says. Once you determine that you’re dealing with a maintained education record—the subject of FERPA statutes—you have to decide which of the following areas of the law is relevant:

Access. The first category deals with situations where the student has requested access to their own records. Although it seems obvious that they have a right to their own information, it’s not always so cut and dried—such as when the record deals with another student’s protected information.

Amendment. Under certain circumstances, the student has the right to seek a change to his or her academic records.

Disclosure. This part of the statue addresses how officials should handle third-party requests—for example, from a financial aid provider, such as the Veteran’s Administration, or another school official, such as a professor.

Without written consent from the student, you must determine whether or not the information is protected—and then, decide whether the request meets the standards for one of the 16 exceptions to the requirement for consent, Rooker says. Those exceptions include situations involving subpoenas, parents of a dependent student, health or safety emergencies, substance abuse, and violent offenses, just to name a few.

Although FERPA requests can feel like the plot of a legal drama, remember: AACRAO has a top-notch team of investigators who can give you the tools you need to help solve the case.

Autopsy: Real cases, real consequences

AACRAO’s preconference workshop “CSI FERPA: Investigations from the Field” will give attendees practical tools and tips for solving complex privacy problems.

Participants will work with actual FERPA case studies from the mundane to the bizarre, deconstructing the legal questions issue-by-issue. National FERPA experts will be on hand to help guide attendees as they examine each situation and determine, based upon the evidence and interpretation of FERPA guidelines, the most appropriate course of action.

Join the investigation

By building knowledge and confidence in applying FERPA, participants will come away with the tools to protect their students and institutions—and maintain their own professional integrity.

To become a better FERPA investigator, join Rooker; Tina Falkner, Director, Continuity and Compliance, University of Minnesota; and Traci Gulick, Associate Registrar for Academic Records and Certification Services, Michigan State University, for this half-day workshop in San Francisco—Sunday, April 14th, from 12:30 to 3:30pm—immediately preceding the Annual Meeting.


By: AACRAO Connect