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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

FERPA and Calvin College

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 helps protect the privacy of student records. It provides for the right to inspect and review information contained in educational records, request an amendment to those records, and to limit disclosure of information from the records.  In addition, students have a right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education, if they believe that one of their primary rights has been violated.

Access and privacy

Students who are currently enrolled at Calvin College or formerly enrolled students, regardless of their age or status in regard to parental dependency, are protected under FERPA. Parents of students termed dependent for income tax purposes may have access to the student’s educational records.

With certain exceptions, a student has rights of access to those records which are directly related to him/her and which are maintained by Calvin College. Education records include any records in the possession of an employee which are shared with or accessible to another individual. The records may be handwritten or in the form of print, magnetic tape, film, electronic image, computer storage, or some other medium. This would include transcripts or other records obtained from a school in which a student was previously enrolled.

Official Calvin College transcripts are released only when requested in writing by the students. Transcripts will not be released for students who have failed to meet their financial obligations to the college.
All other requests to inspect and review education records should be submitted by the student in writing to the registrar, dean, department head or other appropriate official, and clearly identify the record(s) that the student wishes to inspect.   If the requested record(s) are not maintained by the school official to whom the request was submitted, that official will advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

Disclosure of information

Calvin may disclose information on a student without violating FERPA through what is known as directory Information. This generally includes a student's name, address, telephone number, electronic email address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, participation in officially recognized sports and activities, weight and height of athletes, dates of attendance, grade level, enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate, full- or part-time), degrees, honors, and awards received, and other similar information. A student may restrict the release of his/her directory information by submitting a signed authorization form to academic services.

In certain other situations, a student's written consent is not required to disclose the educational information.  Exceptions* include the disclosure:

  • to school officials who have 'legitimate educational interests' (see definition below);
  • to post-secondary schools in which a student seeks to enroll;
  • to federal, state, and/or local education authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with programs;
  • in connection with financial aid;
  • to state and local authorities pursuant to a state law adopted before November 1974 requiring the disclosure;
  • to organizations conducting studies for or on behalf of educational institutions;
  • to accrediting organizations;
  • to parents of a dependent student;
  • to parents of students under 21 for violations of any law or institutional policy related to the possession of alcohol or controlled substance;
  • to comply with judicial order of lawfully issued subpoena, including ex parte orders under the USA Patriot Act;
  • in connection with a health or safety emergency;
  • of information designated as directory information (see above definition);
  • to the student;
  • to a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offence;
  • in connection with a disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence;
  • concerning sex offenders and other individuals required to register under stated or federal law;

*There are some specific conditions to the exceptions noted above, which can be found in the Code of Federal Regulations (Title 34, § 99.31). 

Requests to disclose educational information will always be handled with caution and approached on a case-by-case basis. 

Challenging accuracy of records

Students who believe that their education records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading, or is otherwise in violation of their privacy should discuss their problems informally with the person in charge of the records involved. If the problems cannot be resolved, the student may request a formal hearing by the registrar. The request must be made in writing to the registrar who, within seven days after receiving the request, will inform the student of the date, place and time of the hearing. Students may present evidence relevant to the issues raised. The hearing officer who will adjudicate such challenges will be the registrar, or a person designated by the registrar who does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the hearing. The educational records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the decisions of the hearing officer, if the decisions are in favor of the student. If the decisions are unsatisfactory to the student, the student may place with the educational records statements commenting on the information in the records or statements setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decisions of the hearing officer. The statements will be placed in the educational records, maintained as part of the student's records, and released whenever the records in question are disclosed.

School Officials & Legitimate Educational Interest

Calvin discloses education records without a student prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests.  A school official is a person employed by Calvin College in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including Campus Safety and Health Services personnel); a person or company with whom Calvin has contracted as its agent to provide a services instead of using Calvin employees or officials (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 grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.

As school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the college.  

Complaints

To file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Calvin College to comply with the requirements of FERPA, contact:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC  20202-5901

Questions?

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Want to learn more?

The U.S. Department of Education is charged with the implementation of this law.