Ask the FERPA Professor

January 5, 2024
  • FERPA Professor
cartoon figure reminiscent of Einstein stands in front of a chalkboard with the board "FERPA" written on it

Dear FERPA Professor,  

I am reaching out regarding a question we have related to Treatment records. Our Student Counseling Center had a privacy breach related to their treatment records; once we determine that a breach does not fall under FERPA – because it’s exempt – does our office need to retain any documentation of the matter or record it on the student record?

Thank you,
Ms. Pine

Dear Ms. Pine,

At the postsecondary level medical/treatment records are exempt from the definition of education records, but only so long as they are only shared with other treatment providers.  (See § 99.3"Education Records" (b)(4) in the FERPA regulations.)  Once they are disclosed to individuals other than treatment providers they lose their exempt status and become education records. This would include a breach such as you describe.  Thus, § 99.32 of the FERPA regulations would require that notice of the disclosure be recorded in the students' education records.

I hope this is helpful in responding to your inquiry.  You can find the above-cited regulations on pages 154 and 163 of the  2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.

The FERPA Professor

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