FERPA Definitions

FERPA Defined:

FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. ยง 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) and is a federal law that protects the privacy of students' educational records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education. Students have specific, protected rights regarding the release of such records, and FERPA requires that institutions strictly adhere to these guidelines.

FERPA guidelines protect students by guarding against the release of their records without their consent. Each semester, The Florida State University publishes information for students and the public regarding their rights and the protection of their educational records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended.

Protected Parties under FERPA:

FERPA protects currently or formerly enrolled students, regardless of their age or parental-dependency status. However, FERPA does not protect deceased students or students who have applied to Florida State University but have not attended any classes.

Student Rights under FERPA:

FERPA grants four specific rights to students who are eighteen or older, or who are currently attending a postsecondary institution. Those rights are:

  • the ability to view the information the institution holds;
  • a right to seek amendment of those records and, in certain cases, append a statement to the record;
  • the ability to consent to disclosure of his/her records; and
  • a right to file a complaint with the FERPA office in Washington, D.C.

Educational Record:

An Educational Record is any record maintained by an institution that can personally identify a student or group of students. Since FERPA is technology independent, these records can consist of any number of media, including but not limited to hand-written, print, email, files, documents, tapes, disks, film, microfilm, and microfiche. Additionally, virtually any information provided by a student to the university to be used in the educational process is considered a student educational record, and can include:

  • personal information
  • enrollment records
  • grades
  • schedules

Moreover, student educational records may appear as:

  • a document in the student records office
  • a computer printout in your office
  • a class list on your desktop
  • a computer display screen
  • notes you have taken during an advisement session

You may NOT destroy records under investigation. For policies related to the retention of educational records, ask the supervisor of your area or academic department.

Sole Possession Note:

Sole possession notes are personal observation or recollection notes made and kept by individuals. Sharing these notes with other people or placing these notes in a public-view area makes them educational records subject to FERPA. As a rule of thumb, if you don't want it to become an educational record, don't write it down.

Legitimate Educational Interest:

In accordance with FERPA, a school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his/her professional responsibility. A school official, or internal authority, is defined as a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position. Further, these officials act in the student's educational interest on a legitimate "need-to-know" basis.

If a school official requires information located in a student's educational record to fulfill University-related responsibilities, that official has legitimate educational interest. This includes such purposes as:

  • performing appropriate tasks that are specified in her/his position description or by a contract agreement;
  • performing a task related to a student's education;
  • performing a task related to the discipline of a student;
  • providing services for the student or the student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.