fbpx

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

Release of Student Information

South Piedmont Community College adheres to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. §1232g; 34 CFR Part 99), which is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. FERPA applies to all educational agencies and institutions that receive funding under any program administered by the Department of Education. Once a student reaches 18 years of age or attends a postsecondary institution at any age, the student becomes an “eligible student,” and all rights formerly given to parents under FERPA transfer to the student. 

The eligible student has:

  • the right to have access to (inspect and review) their education records
    • The term “education records” is defined as those records that contain information directly related to a student and which are maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.
  • the right to seek to have the records amended if the student believes their records to be inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights, excluding grade changes
  • the right to have control over (consent to) the disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records (except in certain circumstances specified in the FERPA regulations), by completing a Consent to Release Student Information (written consent) form for South Piedmont Community College
  • the right to file a complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U. S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW., Washington, DC 20202, if the school violates FERPA

FERPA generally prohibits the improper disclosure of personally identifiable information derived from education records. Thus, information that an official obtained through personal knowledge or observation or has heard orally is not protected under FERPA.

Access to Education Records

Under FERPA, a school must provide an eligible student with an opportunity to inspect and review their education records within 45 days following its receipt of a request. Copying any records may be at the expense of the student.

Amendment of Education Records

Under FERPA, an eligible student has the right to request that inaccurate or misleading information in their education records be amended.  While a school is not required to amend education records in accordance with the eligible student’s request, the school is required to consider the request. If the school decides not to amend a record, the school must inform the student of their right to a hearing on the matter. If after the hearing the school still decides not to amend the record, the eligible student has the right to insert a statement in the record setting forth their views. The statement must remain with the contested part of the eligible student’s record for as long as the record is maintained. Amendment procedures may be used to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded, but may not be used to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about an eligible student.

FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair recordkeeping practices and not to override the accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, or placement determinations. If FERPA amendment procedures are not applicable to an eligible student’s request for amendment of education records, the school is not required under FERPA to hold a hearing on the matter.

Disclosure of Education Records

Under FERPA, a school may not generally disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student’s education records to a third party unless the eligible student has provided written consent. Written consent forms are available on the www.spcc.edu website under Student Panel, Forms (Etrieve), under Registrar, Consent to Release Student Information; through the SPCC Registrar’s Office at the Monroe and Polkton Campuses; or by emailing the registrar at registrar@spcc.edu to receive a form.

However, there are exceptions where a school can disclose personally identifiable information from an eligible student’s education records to a third party without written consent:

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest in the information
    • “School officials” are defined as a person employed by or under contract with the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position, or a board member, trustee, attorney, sponsor, or collaborating high school liaison.
    • “Legitimate educational interest” is defined as the school official needing access to information in a student’s record in order to perform their job, and/or maintain safety or security for the campus, and the school official performing a task related to a student’s education or is providing a service/benefit to the student.
  • Other schools in which the student is transferring
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school
  • Accrediting organizations
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoenas
  • To the parent of a dependent student if the parent has claimed the student on the most recent year’s income tax statement
  • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
  • State and Local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law
  • “Directory Information”
    • “Directory Information” may be disclosed and includes:
      • Student’s name
      • Student’s hometown
      • Dates of attendance at the college
      • Credentials earned and dates awarded
      • Student’s major field of study or program
    • Information that may not be disclosed without written consent:
      • Student ID number
      • Student’s email or mailing address
      • Student’s telephone number
      • Social Security Number
      • Grades/GPA
      • Class schedule
      • Employment information
      • Academic performance information
      • Admission information
      • Transcripts
      • Financial information
      • Disciplinary information, unless imminent threat
      • Class attendance information
      • Student’s current enrollment status

As a note: conditions specified in the FERPA regulations at 34 CFR § 99.31 have to be met before a school may non-consensually disclose personally identifiable information from education records in connection with any of the exceptions mentioned above.

Law Enforcement Records

“Law Enforcement Records” created by law enforcement for a law enforcement purpose and maintained by law enforcement are not “education records” subject to the privacy protections under FERPA. However, education records shared with law enforcement do not lose their protected status as education records and are subject to the privacy protections under FERPA.

Complaints

The Family Compliance Office requires that a student have “standing,” i.e., have suffered an alleged violation of their rights under FERPA, in order to file a complaint. Information will not be considered if provided by a third party. The Office may investigate those timely complaints that contain specific allegations of fact giving reasonable cause to believe that a school has violated FERPA. A timely complaint is defined as one that is submitted to the Office within 180 days of the date that the complainant knew or reasonably should have known of the alleged violation of FERPA. Complaints that do not meet FERPA’s threshold requirement for timeliness are not investigated. If the Office does investigate the complaint, and it is determined that the school violated FERPA, the school and the complainant are so advised, and the school is informed of the steps it must take to come into compliance with the law. The investigation is closed when voluntary compliance is achieved.

Complaints regarding access or amendment to records should include: date of the request for access or amendment to the education records; name of the school official to whom the request was made (a dated copy of any written request to the school should be provided, if possible); the response of the school official, if any; and the specific nature of the information requested, or the specific nature of the inaccurate information for which the amendment was requested and evidence provided to the school to support the assertion that such information is accurate.

Complaints regarding improper disclosure should include: the date or approximate date the alleged disclosure occurred or the date the student learned of the disclosure; the name of the school official who made the disclosure, if that is known; the third party to whom the disclosure was made; and the specific nature of the education records disclosed.

Complaint forms may be obtained by calling 202-260-3887. Please mail the completed form to:

                Family Policy Compliance Office
                U.S. Department of Education
                400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                Washington, DC 20202-8520

Destruction of Records

Unless there is an outstanding request by an eligible student to inspect and review education records, FERPA permits the school to destroy such records without notice to the student. (NCCC Records Retention and Disposition Schedule issued by the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, Division of Archives and Records; G.S. §121-5 and G.S. §132-8)

 

U.S. Department of Education (FERPA General Guidance for Students, June 26, 2015)
Updated June 2021