The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and its amendments are federal laws that afford students certain rights with respect to their educational records. Moravian University will maintain the confidentiality of student educational records in accordance with provisions of the Act and will accord all rights under the Act to current and former students of Moravian who are declared independent.
The full text of the Act can be accessed at www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html.
Much of the text in this section is direct quotation or a paraphrase of the Act's language.
Rights of Inspection
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act provides students with the right to inspect and review information contained in their educational records; to challenge the content of those records that students consider to be inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of their privacy or other rights; to a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory; and to submit explanatory statements for inclusion in their files if they deem the decisions of the hearing panel unacceptable. The registrar has been assigned to coordinate the inspection and review procedures for student educational records, which include admissions, personal, academic, and financial files, and academic, cooperative education, and placement records.
Parent Access to Records
In the case of students considered dependent on a parent or legal guardian, the institution is not required to disclose educational records but may exercise its discretion in doing so. For this purpose, dependent status is determined through declaration of the student as a dependent on the parents' most recent federal income tax return. It is expected that students will communicate with their parents about matters of significance relative to the University experience and their own well-being. However, recognizing the deep concern that parents have for their children, Moravian representatives may initiate communication with parents when serious health, discipline, enrollment, or other matters are at issue.
When students have provided Moravian with two parent addresses (for example, in the case of divorced or separated parents), the University will send all parent mailings to both parent addresses. A student who wishes to limit mailings to one parent, or who wishes to change a parent's address, must notify Moravian.
Educational Records: Definition
Educational records are those directly related to students and maintained by Moravian. They do not include the following:
- Records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and ancillary educational personnel that are in the sole possession of the creator and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except a substitute who may temporarily perform the duties of the creator.
- Records of a law-enforcement unit of Moravian that are maintained separately from educational records, are maintained solely for law-enforcement purposes, and are not disclosed to anyone other than law-enforcement officers (provided that educational records of Moravian may not be disclosed to the law-enforcement unit by request of the student).
- Records relating to those employed by Moravian that are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to personnel in their capacity as employees, and are not used for another purpose.
Note: Records of persons employed solely as a consequence of Moravian attendance, e.g., tutors and work-study students, are educational records.
- Records, including student-health records, created and maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized medical or counseling professional or paraprofessional, to be used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and not disclosed to anyone other than for treatment purposes, provided that records may be disclosed to physicians or professionals of the student's choice.
Note: Treatment in this context does not include remedial education activities or other activities that are part of the program of instruction at Moravian.
- Records of the institution that contain only information relating to persons after they are no longer students at the institution, e.g., accomplishments of alumni.
- Records of the institution relating to violations of federal, state, or institutional regulations pertaining to alcohol or drugs.
Request for Review
Students wishing to review their educational records must make a written request to the University office that has the record in custody, listing the item(s) to be reviewed. Only those records covered by the Act will be available for review. The items requested shall be made available no later than 45 calendar days following receipt of the written request. A copy of the academic record may be refused if a hold has been placed for non-payment of financial obligations. Students have the right to a copy of the educational record when failure to provide a copy would prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record, e.g., when distance prevents the student from having ready access to campus.
Limitations on Student Rights
There are some limitations on the rights of students to inspect records. Students have no right of inspection or review of the following items:
- Financial information submitted by parents.
- Confidential letters and recommendations placed in their files prior to January 1, 1975, provided these letters were collected under established policies of confidentiality and were used only for the purpose(s) for which they were specifically collected.
- Confidential letters and recommendations placed in the records after January 1, 1975, to which the student has waived the right of inspection and review and that are related to the student's admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors.
- Educational records containing information about more than one student; however, in such cases the institution will permit access to that part of the record that pertains only to the requesting student.
Waiver of Student Rights
Students may waive any or all of their rights under FERPA. Moravian does not require waivers, and no institutional service shall be denied students who fail to supply waivers. However, students who participate in NCAA athletics are required to release their grades for the purpose of determining eligibility.
All waivers must be in writing and signed by the student. Students may waive their right to inspect and review either individual documents (e.g., a letter of recommendation) or classes of documents (e.g., an admissions file). The items or documents to which students have waived the right of access shall be used only for the purpose(s) for which they were collected. If used for other purposes, the waivers shall be void and the documents may be inspected by the student. The student may revoke the waiver in writing, but revocation does not establish the right to inspect and review documents collected while the waiver was in force.
No person outside Moravian shall have access to nor shall the University disclose any personally identifiable information from any student's educational records without written consent of the student. Consent must specify the records to be released, the purpose of the disclosure, and the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made. Consent must be signed and dated by the student.
Exceptions to Consent Policy
Moravian reserves the right, as allowed under FERPA, to disclose educational records or components thereof without written consent to:
- Personnel within the University who demonstrate a need to know and who act in the student's educational interest, including faculty, administration, clerical, and professional employees, and other persons who manage student records.
- Officials of other institutions in which the student seeks to enroll, on the condition that Moravian makes a reasonable attempt to inform the student of the disclosure. In most instances, if the student initiated the request to transfer, a permission to transfer educational records is explicit in the request.
- Officials of other schools in which the student is currently enrolled.
- Persons or organizations providing student financial aid in order to determine the amount, eligibility, or conditions of an award and to enforce the terms of an award.
- Accrediting organizations carrying out their functions.
- Authorized representatives of the comptroller-general of the United States, the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and state educational authorities, for information necessary for audit and evaluation of federal or state-sponsored programs.
- State and federal officials to whom disclosure is required by state statute adopted prior to November 19, 1974.
- Organizations conducting studies to develop, validate, and administer predictive tests, to administer student-aid programs, or to improve instruction, so long as there is no further external disclosure of personally identifiable information and the information is destroyed when no longer necessary for the project.
- Parents of dependent students who have established that student's status as a dependent according to Internal Revenue Code of 1954, Section 152 (as amended). This requires a certified copy of the parents' most recent federal income tax return.
- Persons in compliance with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena if reasonable effort is made to notify the student.
- Appropriate persons in a health or safety emergency, so long as there is a serious threat to the student or others, the knowledge of the information is necessary to meet the emergency, time is of the essence, and the persons to whom the information is disclosed are in a position to deal with the emergency.
Institutional Record of Disclosure
Moravian will keep a written record of all such exceptional disclosures, and the student has the right to inspect such records, which will include the names of parties or agencies to whom disclosure was made, the legitimate reason for the disclosure, and the date of disclosure. No record of disclosure shall be required for those requests made by students for their own use, those disclosures made with a student's written consent, those made to Moravian officials, or those specified as directory information.
Disclosure of Educational Record Information
Moravian will obtain written consent from students before disclosing any personally identifiable information from their educational record (with exceptions as noted under Exceptions to Consent Policy). Such written consent for disclosure must specify the records to be released, state the purpose of the disclosure, identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made, and be signed and dated by the student. All such consents shall be maintained in the student's educational record.
In accordance with the provisions of FERPA and at its own discretion, Moravian may provide directory information to include: student name, Moravian student ID number, address, e-mail address, telephone number, date and place of birth, major field of study, photographs, dates of attendance, enrollment status, degrees and awards received, the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and/or weight and height of members of athletic teams. Students may withhold directory information by notifying the Registrar's Office in writing at any time. All written requests for non-disclosure will be honored by Moravian until such time as the student submits a written request to have their records released again. Varsity student-athletes who choose to withhold their directory information per this policy will still have their directory information released by the Moravian department of athletics and the NCAA as stated in the NCAA compliance forms signed by all student-athletes.
Challenge of Content of Educational Records
Students who believe their educational records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading or that otherwise violates their privacy or other rights may discuss their concerns informally with the associate provost. If the dean agrees with the student's request, the appropriate records shall be amended and the student shall be notified in writing of the amendment(s). If the dean disagrees, the student must be notified by the dean within 15 calendar days that the records will not be amended and that the student has the right to a hearing on the matter.
A request for a formal hearing must be made in writing within 30 calendar days from the mailing of the notice from the dean. Within 30 days of receipt of the written request, the dean shall inform the student of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The student shall be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issue(s) raised. The student may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons, including an attorney (at the student's expense). The hearing may be conducted by any party, including an official of Moravian, so long as the person does not have a direct interest in its outcome. The panel that adjudicates such challenges is made up of the provost and dean of the faculty, the vice president for student affairs, and the director of learning services. The hearing panel shall base its decision solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. Its decision shall be final and in writing, summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decision. The written report shall be mailed to the student and any other concerned party within 30 calendar days of the hearing.
If the panel determines that the information at issue is inaccurate, misleading, or a violation of privacy or other rights, the student's record shall be amended in accordance with the decision and the student so informed in writing. If the decision is unsatisfactory to the student, a statement(s) commenting on the information in the record or setting forth any reason for disagreeing with the decision may be placed by the student in the educational record. The statement(s) shall be maintained as part of the record and released whenever the record in question is disclosed to an authorized party.
Note: Rights of challenge cannot be used to question substantive educational judgments that are correctly recorded (e.g., course grades with which the student disagrees).
Students who believe that the adjudication of their challenge was unfair or not in keeping with the provisions of FERPA may request, in writing, assistance from the president of Moravian University to aid them in filing a complaint with the Family Policy and Regulations Office, U.S. Department of Education, Room 1087, 400 Maryland Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.
Notification of Parents
Amendments made in 1998 to the basic FERPA legislation provide for the notification of alcohol and drug policy violations to parents when institutional processes have established responsibility for such violations to their child or children. Moravian endorses this policy revision and will, in general, notify parents about such offenses.
Challenge of Institutional Non-Compliance
Students may file complaints in writing concerning alleged failure of the institution to comply with FERPA to the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.
Destruction of Records
Once a student has requested access to educational records, these records shall not be destroyed until inspection and review have been provided. The following items shall not be destroyed or removed from the record: (1) explanatory statements placed in the record by the student (see the section on Challenge of Content of Educational Records, above); and (2) records of disclosure and requests for disclosure. Moravian reserves the right to destroy information contained in student records and files when the information on file is no longer valid or useful (e.g., letters of recommendation once they have been used for their original purpose).