Goucher College FERPA Guidelines
The public posting of grades either by the student's name, institutional student identification number or social security number, without the student's written permission, is a violation of FERPA. Even with names obscured, numeric student identifiers are considered personally identifiable information and therefore posting grades by student ID number violates FERPA. Instructors can assign students unique numbers or codes that can be used to post grades. However, the order of the posting must not be alphabetic.
Leaving personally identifiable, graded papers unattended for students to view is no different from posting grades in the hallway. If these papers contain "personally identifiable" information, leaving them unattended for anyone to see is a violation of FERPA if the instructor has not obtained the written permission of each student to do so. The appropriate way to distribute grades and graded papers would be to leave the documents with an assistant or secretary who would ask students for proper identification prior to distributing them or to leave them in a sealed envelope with only the student's name on it.
Sending grades to students
Instructors can notify students of their final grades via the U.S. Mail if the information is enclosed in an envelope. Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student's privacy. Notification of grades via email is permissible.
Access to student records
Although faculty members are considered "school officials," FERPA prevents them from having unfettered access to all student records. Faculty members have to demonstrate "a legitimate educational interest" in the particular academic records to which they seek access, by identifying the purpose for which they seek access, e.g., advising students, making disability accommodations, assessing an application for a study abroad trip, etc.
Parents requesting information
Scores and grades on papers and exams, progress in a course, and deficiencies in a subject area, etc., are all examples of personally identifiable information that make up part of the student's education record. This information is protected under FERPA and parents may not have access to such information unless the student has provided written consent to release this information to the parent or the parent has demonstrated that the student is a dependent of the parent. Before talking to someone about a student or releasing information from an education record to a third party, including a parent, a faculty member should consult with the Registrar's office to determine whether the student has consented to the release of information to that person.
If non-directory information is needed to resolve a crisis or emergency situation, an education institution may release that information if the institution determines that the information is "necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals." When Goucher College is contacted to provide non-directory information in such a situation, including the location of a student on campus or the course schedule of a student, the request for information is referred to the Registrar's Office and /or Office of Public Safety who will determine an appropriate response to the request.
Letters of recommendation
Faculty members are frequently requested to provide letters of recommendation to students. Faculty should be aware that some or all of the information that might be included in such a letter could constitute an "education record" which cannot be released to a third party without the consent of the student. Thus, before providing a student with a written or oral recommendation, the faculty member should obtain written consent from the student to release information from education records (e.g., grades, GPA and other non-directory information). See this page for a suggested consent form. The faculty member should be aware that the student has the right to later review the letter of recommendation in his or her file, unless the student has waived the right to review the record, in writing. Thus, if the faculty member does not want the student to have access to the letter, he or she should obtain a written waiver from the student of this right (a waiver is included on the student reference request form) and maintain a copy of the waiver in the student's file with the letter of recommendation.
Who to contact with questions/concerns
General questions may be directed to the Registrar's Office or the Office of the General Counsel. Comments or suggestions should be addressed to Registrar Andrew Westfall (firstname.lastname@example.org; 410-337-6500 or extension 6500).