Your Rights Under FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a Federal law, gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. *
With certain exceptions FERPA requires Ohio Christian University to obtain your written consent prior to the disclosure of personally identifiable information from your education records.
Directory information is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if released. However, if you do not want Ohio Christian University to disclose directory information from your education records without your prior written consent, you must notify us in writing by the first day that classes begin in each semester.
The freedom to publish directory information allows OCU to include you in our publications such as the yearbook, honor roll lists, graduation programs and sports news. If you place a hold on your directory information, you will have to sign a consent form each time your information is released. In accordance with FERPA guidelines, OCU has designated the following items as directory information:
- Current enrollment
- Local address as a student
- Permanent address as a student
- Local telephone number
- E-mail addresses
- Dates of attendance
- Class standing (e.g., sophomore)
- Schedule of classes
- Previous institution(s) attended
- Field(s) of study
- Awards and honors
- Degree(s) and date(s) conferred
- Full-time or part-time status
- Photographic or videotaped image
- Past and present participation in officially recognized sports and activities, and physical factors of athletes (e.g., height, weight).
Other Rights Under FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords you certain other rights with respect to your education records. These rights are:
- The right to inspect and review your education records within 45 days of the day the college receives a request for access. You may submit to the Office of the Registrar a written request identifying the record(s) you wish to inspect. The registrar will make arrangements for access and notify you of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the registrar, the registrar will advise you of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request the amendment of your education records that you believe to be inaccurate or misleading. You may request that the university amend a record you believe is inaccurate or misleading. You should write the official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record you want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the university decides not to amend the record as you requested, you will be notified of the decision and advised of your right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided when you are notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in your education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
- FERPA allows disclosure without consent to school officials with legitimate educational interests in the information. A school official is a person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including security and health staff); a person or company with whom the college has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.
- Upon request, the university also is permitted to disclose education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the university to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The complete regulations and full definitions of terminology are at the FERPA page on the U.S. Department of Education website. If you have other questions about FERPA you may visit the website of the Family Policy Compliance Office or you may write to them: Family Policy Compliance Office U.S. Department of Education 400 Maryland Avenue SW Washington, DC 20202-4605
FERPA Exemption Under Health and Safety Emergencies
FERPA permits non-consensual disclosure of education records, or personally identifiable, non-directory information from education records, in connection with a health or safety emergency under § 99.31(a) (10) and § 99.36 of the FERPA regulations. In particular, § 99.36(a) and (c) provide that educational agencies and institutions may disclose information from an education record “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” and that the exception will be “strictly construed.” Congress’ intent that the applicability of this exception be limited is reflected in the Joint Statement in Explanation of Buckley/Pell Amendment, 120 Cong. Rec. S21489 (Dec. 13, 1974).
Accordingly, the Department consistently has limited the health and safety exception to a specific situation that presents imminent danger to a student, other students, or other members of the school community – or to a situation that requires the immediate need for information from education records in order to avert or diffuse serious threats to the safety or health of a student or other individuals. For example, the health or safety exception would apply to nonconsensual disclosures to appropriate persons in the case of a smallpox, anthrax or other bioterrorism attack. This exception also would apply to nonconsensual disclosures to appropriate persons in the case of another terrorist attack such as the September 11 attack. However, any release must be narrowly tailored considering the immediacy, magnitude, and specificity of information concerning the emergency. As the legislative history indicates, this exception is temporally limited to the period of the emergency and generally will not allow for a blanket release of personally identifiable information from a student’s education records.
Under the health and safety exception school officials may share relevant information with “appropriate parties,” that is, those parties whose knowledge of the information is necessary to provide immediate protection of the health and safety of the student or other individuals. 20 U.S.C. § 1232g (b) (1) (I); 34 C.F.R. § 99.36(a). Typically, law enforcement officials, public health officials, and trained medical personnel are the types of parties to whom information may be disclosed under this FERPA exception. FERPA’s record keeping requirements (§ 99.32) apply to disclosures made pursuant to the health or safety exception.
The educational agency or institution has the responsibility to make the initial determination of whether a disclosure is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. However, the Department is available to work with institutions to assist them in making such decisions in order to ensure that the disclosure comes within the exception to FERPA’s requirement of prior written consent.
In short, the health or safety exception will permit the disclosure of personally identifiable information from a student’s education record without the written consent of the student in the case of an immediate threat to the health or safety of students or other individuals. Of course, a school official, based on his or her own observations, may notify law enforcement officials of suspicious activity or behavior. Nothing in FERPA prohibits a school official from disclosing to federal, State, or local law enforcement authorities information that is based on that official’s personal knowledge or observation and not from an education record.
*These laws are: Section 9528 of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (20 U.S.C. § 7908) and 10 U.S.C. § 503(c).