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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Exceptions

Although not required, institutions may release information from student records, without prior consent, to:

  • school officials with legitimate educational interest (as defined by institution within FERPA guidelines)
  • schools in which the student seeks or intends to enroll
  • federal, state and local authorities involving an audit or evaluation of compliance with education programs

FERPA and Class Recordings

Recent Department of Education guidance indicates that you can record a class using Zoom or other similar software, as long as the recording is only shared within the Learning Management System for that specific course in that specific term, and only if the recording does not contain personally identifiable information from student education records. This, then, constitutes a FERPA-permitted use of educational records, if that recording falls within the category of educational records. Student names (on screen or in the chat) are typically considered directory information, as opposed to personally identifiable information from student education records, which means that the recordings can include student names as long as the recording is not shared outside that particular course.

FERPA Annual Notice to Reflect Possible Federal and State Data Collection and Use

As of Jan. 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records — including Social Security number, grades or other private information — may be accessed without your consent. First, the U.S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or state and local education authorities (“Federal and State Authorities”) may allow access to your records and PII without your consent to any third party designated by a federal or state Authority to evaluate a federal- or state-supported education program. The evaluation may relate to any program that is “principally engaged in the provision of education,” such as early childhood education and job training, as well as any program that is administered by an education agency or institution. Second, federal and state authorities may allow access to your education records and PII without your consent to researchers performing certain types of studies, in certain cases even when we object to or do not request such research. Federal and state authorities must obtain certain use-restriction and data security promises from the entities that they authorize to receive your PII, but the Authorities need not maintain direct control over such entities. In addition, in connection with Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, State Authorities may collect, compile, permanently retain, and share without your consent PII from your education records, and they may track your participation in education and other programs by linking such PII to other personal information about you that they obtain from other federal or state data sources, including workforce development, unemployment insurance, child welfare, juvenile justice, military service and migrant student records systems.

  • In connection with financial aid.
  • To organizations conducting studies of or on behalf of educational institutions (provided the institutions research board has cleared the research).
  • To accrediting agencies.
  • To parents of dependent students (as verified by the most recent tax form).
  • To comply with a judicial order or subpoena.
  • In health or safety emergencies.
  • As directory information (as described above).
  • To the student.
  • Results of disciplinary hearings.
  • Results of disciplinary hearing to an alleged victim of a crime of violence.
  • Final results of a disciplinary hearing concerning a student who is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence and who is found to have committed a violation of the institution’s rules or policies.
  • To parents of students under 21 if the institution determines that the student has committed a violation of its drug or alcohol rules or policies (regardless of the student’s dependent status).

Legitimate Educational Interest

The university discloses education records without a student’s prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests.

A school official is a person employed by the university 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 university has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Curators; 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.

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 responsibilities for the university.

Legitimate educational interest is the need to review an education record in order for a university official to carry out his or her responsibilities in order to: perform an administrative task outlined in the official’s duties; perform a supervisory or instructional task directly related to the student’s education; or perform service or benefit for the student such as health care, job placement, or financial aid. School officials may not access student records for personal reasons.

It is important to understand several points related to legitimate educational interest:

  • Simply the fact that you are a university employee or school official (faculty, staff, faculty administrator, administrator, etc.) does not constitute legitimate educational interest. Your need to know must be related to your job responsibilities in support of the university’s educational mission. In other words, records should be used only in the context of official business in conjunction with the educational success of the student in question.
  • Just being a faculty member or staff in a department, school or college does not mean that  you have legitimate educational interest to look at grades or other academic information of students in the same academic department, school or college. Your legitimate educational interest is limited. While you may have a need to access education records for students in your college, you do not necessarily have a similar need to view records of students outside your college. In other words, access to information does not authorize unrestricted use.
  • Curiosity is not a legitimate educational interest. Just because you have access to view the record of your neighbor’s son, does not mean that you have a legitimate educational interest in his grades and cumulative GPA.
  • To organizations conducting studies of or on behalf of educational institutions (provided the institutions research board has cleared the research. Learn more about the Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval process.

Policy Source: UM System Policy, Chapter 180