Understanding Privacy Laws
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts what universities and faculty can say about their students. The act was created to protect a student’s privacy, but the impact of the act is that parents are restricted in what they are allowed to know about their student.
Unless your student has given his/her parents prior authorization, information about grades, grade point average, credit hours, and attendance are not accessible. Even if your student has given authorization, many university and faculty will routinely deny you access to your student’s performance. Universities are so frightened about FERPA that they have become ultra-strict on access to student information.
The net effect of FERPA is that you need to get performance information from your student directly, obviously this could lead to inaccurate or misleading performance reporting but that’s the reality of higher education today.
On the plus side, no one else can access information about your student. Students can also restrict access to contact information, enrollment status, major and degrees earned. Students have to make a positive decision to limit access to the information listed above. Most campuses also have to gain a student’s approval to use visual images of a student for public display.
Grades cannot be posted by a student’s name, student number, or social security number. Posting in this case includes a class website. On most campuses, student can access their grades by going to a campus grade reporting system and accessing it with a password. You could have your student give you the password, but this could be too much information for you to digest without knowing how the overall grade is determined.
What’s fascinating about a university’s protection of student’s privacy is that most students live very open lives via Facebook and Twitter..