Dear FERPA Professor,
At my institution we offer a clinical program that requires internship and practicum hours. Often students request for verification of their hours on a letterhead sent to State Licensing Boards, etc. Typically we require students to fill out a form providing authorization to release the information, we write the letter and send it out, then keep a copy of the letter. This process occurs if the student requests the information directly from Registrar. However, many of these students will make the request via email directly to our Director of Clinical Training. My question is whether this is a violation of FERPA if the request/response comes to/from the Director and is not documented consistently. My line of thought is that since the recipient is typically a Licensing Board of sorts that they have “legitimate educational interest” and we might be okay here. I appreciate your guidance and expertise on the matter.
Thank you for your time.
The disclosure of information from the student's education records to an outside party, such as State Licensing Boards, is generally going to require a written consent that meets the requirements of §99.30 of the FERPA regulations. The student could provide the consent to the Board in lieu of to the institution, but in such a circumstance, you would want to request a copy of the consent from the Board for the protection of the institution. The "school official" exception to signed consent, found at §99.31(a)(1), would not work in this instance. This is because the State Boards are not part of the institution and the exception limits the "legitimate educational interest" to school officials "within the institution." You can find this language on page 159 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.
I hope this is helpful in answering your question.
The FERPA Professor