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Confidentiality of Student Records
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA"), also known as the Buckley Amendment, ensures confidentiality of student educational records and restricts disclosure to or access by third parties, except as authorized by law. FERPA also confers upon current and former students certain rights with respect to their education records. With certain limited exceptions, FERPA guarantees that the academic records for students over 18 years of age cannot be discussed with or disclosed to any person.
The College's FERPA Officer is: Jonathan Rand, Registrar, firstname.lastname@example.org or 617.879.7272.
What are "Education Records" under FERPA?
"Education records" are those records that are directly related to a student and maintained by Massachusetts College of Art and Design or by a party acting for the College. These include, but are not limited to, papers, examinations, grade information, transcripts, disciplinary information, billing and financial aid information. FERPA applies to paper and electronic records.
The following records, however, are not "education records" under FERPA:
- Records that are kept in the sole possession of the maker of the records, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record
- Records maintained solely for law enforcement purposes by College law enforcement units
- Employment records related exclusively to the student's capacity as an employee and not dependent on the individual's status as a student. For example, records pertaining to work study students, teaching assistants, or graduate teaching are education records under FERPA
- Records created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other paraprofessional used only in the treatment of the student and not available to individuals other than those providing the treatment
- Records that only contain information about an individual after that individual is no longer a student at the College (e.g., information pertaining to alumni accomplishments)
- Admission records for a student who does not officially attend the College
What Rights Do Students Have Under FERPA?
A student has the right to inspect and review his or her education records within a reasonable time, but no more than forty five (45) days after the College's receipt of a written inspection request.
To make a request for access to their records, students should submit to the Registrar a written request that identifies the record(s) they wish to inspect. The Registrar will then make arrangements for access to the records and will notify the student of the time and place at which the records may be inspected.
If circumstances effectively prevent the student from exercising his or her right to inspect and review his or her records, the College shall provide the student with a copy of his or her requested records, for which the College will impose a reasonable charge for the photocopying expense.
Students do not have the right to see portions of their record that do not constitute education records, such as:
- Financial information regarding their parents
- Law enforcement records
- Portions of their records containing information about other students
- Confidential letters of recommendation placed in their files prior to 1/1/75
- Confidential letters, statements or similar material associated with admissions, employment, job placement, or honorary recognition to which a student has waived the right of inspection and review
- Records containing information about the individual after he/she is no longer a student
A student has the right to correct any erroneous or misleading information in his or her records.
Students who believe that their education records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading, or is otherwise in violation of their privacy, may challenge the records by addressing their concerns in writing to the director of the office that maintains the records.
If the director agrees with the student's position, the records will be amended appropriately.
If the director disagrees, the student is notified within a reasonable period of time that the records will not be amended. The student then has the right to request a formal hearing. Such requests must be made in writing to the vice president for student development, who will, within 10 days of receiving the request, inform the student of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The hearing panel that adjudicates such challenges is the vice president for student development or designee, and the vice president for administration and finance or designee. Students may present evidence relevant to the issues raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons of their choice, including an attorney, at the student's expense.
The decision of the hearing panel is final. If the panel agrees with the student, the student's records will be corrected or amended. If the panel disagrees with the student, the College will notify the student of his or her right to include with the education records statements commenting on the information in the records, or statements setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decisions of the hearing panels. The statements will be placed in the education records, maintained as part of the permanent records, and released whenever the records in question are disclosed.
Students who believe that the adjudication of their challenge was unfair or not in keeping with the provisions of the Act may request, in writing, assistance from the president of the College to aid them in filing complaints with The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act Office (FERPA), Department of Education, Room 4074, Switzer Building, Washington DC. 20202.
A student has the right to expect that personally identifiable information in his or her education records will be kept confidential and disclosed only with their permission or as required by law.
"Personally identifiable" means that the data or information (excluding "Directory Information") that includes the name of a student, the student's parent, or other family member; the address of the student or student's family; a personal identifier, such as the student's identification number or social security number; or a list of personal characteristics that would make the student's identity easily traceable.
A current or former student who wishes to permit another person to inspect or receive copies of the student's educational records must provide a signed and dated written consent which must:
- specify the records that may be disclosed
- state the purpose of the disclosure; and
- identify the person or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
If requested, the college will provide the student with a copy of the records disclosed.
What Are the Exceptions to FERPA's Confidentiality Requirements?
FERPA permits the College to disclose "directory information" without a student's prior consent which includes certain categories of information, the public exposure of which would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy to the student, without a student's prior consent. At Massachusetts College of Art and Design, directory information includes a student's name; local address; telephone number; hometown, field of study; dates of attendance; degrees and awards received, including departmental and graduation honors and participation in the officially recognized activities.
Students, however, may elect to withhold directory information from disclosure. To do so, a student must check the appropriate box on his or her registration form during fall registration. Once a student agrees to release directory information, the College must provide it to anyone who requests it. The College will honor requests for nondisclosure of directory information for one academic year only; thereafter, students must file requests to withhold directory information each year during the registration period.
Disclosure to Other College Officials
Within the College community, FERPA permits access to education records to only those officials with legitimate educational interests. An "official" is:
- a person employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel 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
- a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or governance committee, 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. Legitimate educational interests means:
- the information or records requested is relevant and necessary to the accomplishment of some task or determination; and
- the task or determination is an employment responsibility for the inquirer or is a properly assigned subject matter for the inquirer's determination; and
- the task or determination is consistent with the purpose(s) for which the record, information, or data are maintained.
Disclosure Pursuant To Judicial Order of Subpoena
The College will make a reasonable effort to notify the student of the order or subpoena and provide him or her an opportunity to contest before complying.
In the case of a subpoena issued for law enforcement purposes, the College is not required to notify the student of the existence or the contents of the subpoena, or of the information furnished in response to the subpoena, if the Court or other issuing agency has ordered that such information not be disclosed. Searches conducted pursuant to the Patriot Act do not require prior or subsequent notification and the College may be prohibited from providing any information regarding such search to the object of the search.
Disclosure To The Victim of Certain Crimes
Federal law requires the College to disclose to both the accuser and the accused student the outcome of all student disciplinary proceedings that involve a sexual offense.
In addition, the College may disclose the final results of student disciplinary proceedings regarding a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense. Final results include name of the offender, violation, and any sanction imposed.
Disclosure in Connection with Disciplinary Proceedings
Disciplinary decisions may be disclosed to persons other than the victim if: (1) it is determined that the student is the alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense; and (2) the student has committed a violation of college rules or policies. The College may not disclose the name of any other student, including a victim or witnesses without their consent.
The College can also inform parents about violations of the College's drug and alcohol policy by a student under the age of twenty one (21).
Disclosure to Certain Government Officials
The College will release information to authorized representatives of the U.S. Comptroller General's Office, the U.S. Department of Education, and state and local educational authorities in connection with an audit or an evaluation of federal or state supported programs and to assure the enforcement of or compliance with federal or state legal requirements related to these programs; and to the United States Attorney General for law enforcement purposes.
The College will also release information to authorized representatives of: the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for purposes of the Coordinated Inter-agency partnership regulating International Students; the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for purposes of complying with the Taxpayer Relief Act of 1997; and the Department of Veterans Affairs for students receiving educational assistance from the agency.
The College will disclose "Student Recruiting Information" to the Department of Defense and military recruiters for recruiting purposes only pursuant to the Solomon Amendment. Student recruiting information is name, address, telephone listing, age (or year of birth), place of birth, level of education and degrees received, and major.
The College will also disclose information to authorized representatives of the state and local government if disclosure is allowed pursuant to a state statute concerning the juvenile justice system.
Other permitted disclosures beyond directory information can be:
- To parents/guardians of dependent students. Dependent defined as those students claimed as such on tax forms
- To the student
- To agents acting on behalf of the College, who may include attorneys, auditors, collection agents, security services, or service providers
- In connection with financial aid to the student
- To another school in which the student seeks to enroll (disclosure may be made whether the student or the other institution initiates the request)
- To accrediting organizations for accrediting purposes
- To the appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency
- In response to complaints and legal actions involving the student and the College. If a student or parent initiates legal action or brings complaints against the College, the College may disclose information relevant to the response to the complaint without seeking the prior consent of the student. In addition, in the event that the College initiates legal action against a parent or student, the College may disclose relevant information without a court order or subpoena if a reasonable effort is made to notify the student or parent prior to disclosure
- To organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of the College (e.g. utilizing predictive tests or student aid programs)
Other Relevant Policies and Procedures
All institutions subject to FERPA are required to maintain records of requests and disclosures of personally identifiable information. The records and requests, whether granted or not, shall include the names and addresses of the persons who request the information and their legitimate interests in the information. Records of requests and disclosures need not be maintained for the following: requests made by students for their own use; disclosures made in response to written requests from students; requests made by school officials; and disclosures of directory information.
These records of disclosures and requests for disclosures are considered a part of the student's educational records and must be retained as long as the College retains the records themselves. The records of requests and disclosures must be maintained in a form that permits students, responsible institutional officials, and state and federal auditors to inspect them.
The College maintains a system for the destruction of non-academic records. Once a student has requested access to his or her education records, however, these non-academic records cannot be destroyed until the student has inspected and reviewed the education records.
The College will review and revise this policy regarding the Confidentiality of Student Records as necessary. All revisions to this policy will be published online and in the Student Handbook.