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Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) Policy

I. Justification and Statement of Policy 

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 ("FERPA" or "the Act") codifies the rights of students to the confidentiality of their education records and  the rights of students to have access to such records. This policy is implemented to ensure that Franklin & Marshall College (“F&M” or “College”) is fulfilling the purpose of the Act. 

II. Scope

This policy applies to all employees, students, and school officials, as defined by this policy. 

III. Definitions

a. Student: Any individual who is or has been in attendance (i.e. alumni/former students) at F&M. It does not include an individual who was an unsuccessful applicant for admission to the College.

b. Education Records: Records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and are maintained by the College or an agent of the College. Protected education records can be maintained in paper, digital/electronic, or other formats. These records include, but are not limited to:

    1. Admission records.

    2. Academic records, grade reports, transcripts of grades, major and minor declaration forms, and such other information as may appear on the College transcript held in the Registrar’s Office.

    3. Records and documents related to the decisions of the Committee on Academic Status and the Student Conduct Committee and general information regarding the student’s curricular and extracurricular performance and activities, held in the Office of Student Affairs.

    4. Records held by those advising and evaluating students, such as academic advisers, the Health Professions Advisory Committee, the Office of Student and Post-Graduate Development, Faculty Dons, and House Deans.

    5. Records and documents held in the Office of Financial Aid.     

      The following items are not education records as defined by FERPA and thus are not protected. However, these records may be protected by other laws and policies: 

    6. Notes, statements, records, documents or other papers that are kept in the sole possession of the maker thereof and are not accessible to others (such as private notes made by professors, academic advisers, or administrators that are purely personal reminders of an event or fact that they may or may not use in a subsequent decision such as determining a grade in a course, advising as to courses, etc.).

    7. Law enforcement records

    8. Employment records

    9. Treatment records, including medical, psychological, and counseling\

    10. Post-attendance records, records created or received by the College after an individual is no longer a student and not directly related to the individual’s attendance as a student

    11. Records created in the normal course of business, including but not limited to media files created for marketing purposes or media files created for instructional purposes

    12. Peer-graded papers before they are collected and recorded by faculty

c. Directory Information: The following categories of information have been designated directory information at F&M:

    1. Name, home address, home phone number, local address, local phone number, e-mail address, photograph, date of birth, and names and addresses of parents or guardians.

    2. Name and address of secondary school attended, dates of attendance and degrees awarded, academic major(s) and minor (when applicable), date of graduation, and membership in officially recognized activities and sports.

    3. Such information as is normally included on rosters and programs prepared for athletic contests.

    4. Granting of honors, awards and other accomplishments.

The College will give annual public notice to students of the categories of information designated as directory information and will allow a reasonable period of time after such notice for students to inform the College that they wish to suppress the information from being disclosed. Directory information may appear in public documents and may otherwise be disclosed without student consent unless the student objects as indicated.

d. School officials: For purposes of this policy include: l) any persons employed by the College in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position; 2) a person elected to the Board of Trustees; 3) a person employed by or under contract to the College to perform institutional services or functions in lieu of College employees, who is under the direct control of the College, and who is subject to the same conditions governing use and redisclosure of education records that apply to other school officials; or 4) a student serving on an official committee or assisting another school official in performing their tasks. Upon request, the College also discloses education records without a student’s consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.

IV. Policy

a. Privacy of Student Education Records
Release of Student Education Records: No education record shall be released by the College or its agents, nor shall access be granted without the consent of the student except as provided below, or as otherwise provided by law. Student requests for the release of information may be made by (a) completing the Franklin & Marshall FERPA Release Form in the Office of the Registrar or (b) providing a signed consent form from a nationally recognized educational or professional entity (LSAC, AMCAS, bar examiners, etc.). If students have questions about the acceptability of a form, they should contact the Office of the Registrar. A student may, at any time, revoke a previously granted consent to release.

b. Access to Student Records by Student 
Students have a right of access to their education records, a right to challenge the accuracy of these records, and a right to have explanations or comments on these records placed in their file. They also have a right to have copies of their records, subject to payment to cover the costs of duplication.

Students who wish to review their records may do so by submitting a request to the appropriate officer of the College on a form provided for the purpose that shall identify what part of the education records the student wishes to review. Within 45 days of the submission of the application, a representative of the College office responsible for maintaining those records will provide the student with the records and documents to which the student is entitled and will provide such reasonable explanations or interpretations as the student may require for clarification. 

A student can request an amendment to their records when the record in question is believed to contain information that is inaccurate, misleading or in violation of the student’s rights of privacy.  Should the student challenge any part of the record, the dispute may be settled informally between the student and College.

If the challenge to the content of the record cannot be resolved by informal means, a hearing shall be held within a reasonable time to resolve the matter, and the decision of the hearing panel will be final. The hearing panel will be made up of a current student chosen by the student, a faculty or professional staff member chosen by the Provost, and a faculty or professional staff member chosen by the Vice President of Student Affairs.

The decision of the hearing panel will be rendered within ten days of the hearing, will be in writing, and will be delivered to the student and the Provost. 

The request for amendment and appeal rights do not supplant other processes in place at the College. It is not the intention of the Act, or these procedures, to provide a forum for challenging course grades, the decisions of the Committee on Academic Status, the Student Conduct Committee, or any other committee or office of the College assigned the responsibility to make judgments. Rather, it is the intention of the Act, and this policy, to make known to students the informational basis upon which decisions included in the education records are made and to allow corrections of that information or inclusion of explanatory statements.

1. Limitations on Student Access.  The general right of students to access their education record is limited as follows. Students do not have the right to access:

  1. Confidential statements and letters placed in the files prior to January 1, 1975, and confined in their use to the purposes for which they were intended.

  2. Confidential letters and statements of recommendation related to admission to the College, application for employment, or receipt of an honor or honorary recognition to which students have waived a right of access.

  3. Financial records of students’ parents or guardians.

  4. A student shall not be permitted to inspect records that personally identify other students even if they are personally identified. In such a case they shall simply be informed of the information contained in the record.

2. Waiver of Access. A student may waive a right of access to confidential statements and letters submitted as part of their admissions dossier, but this waiver does not apply if the letters or statements are used for purposes other than to make a judgment about the admission of the student to Franklin & Marshall College. Students may also waive a right of access to confidential recommendations respecting admission to another college or university, a graduate or professional school, or for other opportunities such as internships. Authors of such letters will give the student an opportunity to waive a right of access to such letters of recommendation as they may write. Students may also waive a right of access to confidential recommendations concerning application for employment or receipt of an honor or honorary recognition.

c. Access to Student Records by School Officials 
Students have the right to provide written consent before the College discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. The College 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 has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities for the College.  This includes, but is not limited to, course grades, attendance information, advising information, disciplinary records, financial statements, and housing information.

d. Access to Student Records by Third Parties 
Education records protected by FERPA shall not be released to third parties (including parents, spouses, and other family members) without the express written consent of the student unless it is done so in accordance with FERPA regulations and this policy. 

Parents of dependent students, as defined by Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, may file proof of dependency with the appropriate office, in which case the College has the discretion to release student records to the parents. Though disclosure is permitted, in most cases Franklin & Marshall does not release student records under this provision.  The core of this policy surrounds our particular circumstances as a residential institution. It has been the College’s belief in the importance of building a relationship of trust between the student and the institution, which becomes especially critical with the health and safety considerations that come into play in a residential environment.  

In addition to other allowed disclosures noted in this policy (e.g. directory information, dependent students), per the FERPA regulations, education records may be released to the following without notifying or obtaining the consent of the student:

  1. Officials of another school, upon request, at which a student seeks or intends to enroll. 

  2. Authorized federal, state or local government officials, as allowed by federal law or regulation.

  3. Organizations conducting studies concerning the validity of predictive tests, administering student aid programs, or improving instruction, if a) such studies are conducted in such a manner that specific students cannot be identified in the publication of the results; and b) provided such information will be destroyed when it is no longer needed for the purpose for which the study was made.

  4. Accrediting organizations for the performance of their accrediting function.

  5. Appropriate parties as the result of a properly executed judicial order or subpoena; a reasonable effort will be made to contact the student prior to release in response to any subpoena or judicial order unless the subpoena or judicial order by its terms prohibits contacting the student. 

  6. In the event of a health or safety emergency, information may be released to appropriate persons without the consent of the student if such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or of other persons.  An appropriate party may be a parent of a student even if the student is not a dependent for income tax purposes.

  7. In connection with a student’s request for, or receipt of, financial aid, as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.

  8. If required by a state law requiring disclosure that was adopted before November 19, 1974.

  9. To a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, subject to the requirements of § 99.39. The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to that alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding. (34 CFR § 99.31(a)(13))

  10. To the general public, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding, subject to the requirements of 34 CFR § 99.39, if the school determines the student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense and the student has committed a violation of the school’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation made against them. (34 CFR § 99.31(a)(14))

  11. To parents of a student regarding the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the school, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the school determines the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21. (34 CFR §99.31(a)(15)) 

e. Directory Information
Student directory information may be published by the College except in cases where the student has limited disclosure through a written request. 

Students may withhold directory information by indicating their wishes on the appropriate screen on MyDiplomat or by contacting the Office of the Registrar.  Students are responsible for any impact that such an action may have and should carefully consider the consequences. A student who has requested non-disclosure will still have their name and other required information included on class rolls (in any format). Additionally, if the student has filed a consent to release form, that will override the non-disclosure instruction for the type of record and the person or party listed in the consent form.  Questions should be directed to the Office of the Registrar.

f. Recordkeeping 
Those officers under whose care the records are kept shall maintain a log of the names of those who have requested or been granted access to a student’s record, the information disclosed, the dates of all such transactions, and the legitimate interest of each person in obtaining this information. 

Recordkeeping is not required if the request was from, or if the disclosure was to, one of the following.

  1. the student;

  2. a school official determined to have a legitimate educational interest;

  3. a party with written consent from the student;

  4. a party seeking directory information; or

  5. a federal grand jury or law enforcement agency pursuant to a judicial order or subpoena that by its terms requires non-disclosure.

When the College discloses personally identifiable information from a student’s education record under the health or safety emergency exception, the College must include the following in the record of the disclosure: the articulable and significant threat to the health or safety or a student or other individuals that formed the basis for the disclosure; the parties to whom the information was disclosed. 

g. Administration of Policy and Procedures
The Provost shall have general oversight of the administration of the Act and the above procedures. Questions concerning the matters covered by these procedures and the Act should be directed to the Provost.

Recommendations for changes and amendments to these regulations will be welcomed by the Provost, and such changes as experience demonstrates should be made in a manner and at such times as conform to Franklin & Marshall procedures.

Complaints regarding alleged failures by Franklin & Marshall College to comply with the requirements of FERPA should be forwarded to:

                Family Policy Compliance Office

                U.S. Department of Education

                400 Maryland Avenue, SW

                Washington, D.C. 20202-5920

V. Related Documents and Forms


Policy Maintained by: Registrar's Office, College Registrar 
Last Reviewed: January 10, 2024