The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is committed to the protection and confidentiality of student educational records, adhering to the guidelines established by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) - a federal guideline established to regulate access and maintenance of student educational records. FERPA grants a student certain rights with respect to the education record, including the right to inspect the education record, to request an amendment of the record that the student believes is inaccurate, and the right to control disclosures of the record except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. It is important to note that all rights to access move to the student when that student is in a post-secondary education institution; parents, spouses, and significant others have no inherent right to access to student educational records. Educational records include, with certain exceptions, all records maintained in any medium, which can identify the student.
U.S. Department of Education FERPA Guide
For Our Students:
1. What are Education Records?
The education record includes a range of information about a student that is maintained by TCSPP in any recorded way, such as handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film, microfilm, and microfiche. Examples are:
Personal notes made by teachers and other school officials that are not shared with others are not considered part of the education records. Additionally, law enforcement records created and maintained by a school or district's law enforcement unit are not education records.
- Parent(s) and/or guardian addresses, and parent(s)/guardian contact information;
- Grades, test scores, courses are taken, academic specializations and activities, and official letters regarding a student's status in school;
- Special education records
- Disciplinary records;
- Medical and health records that the school creates or collects and maintains;
- Documentation of attendance, schools attended, courses taken, awards conferred, and degrees earned;
- Personal information such as a student's identification code, social security number, picture, or other information that would make it easy to identify or locate a student.
2. What is not considered part of the Education Record?
- Admissions Records*
- Alumni Records
- Personnel/Employment Records
- Police/Law Enforcement Records
- Psychological Services/Medical Records
- Peer-graded papers/exams are not considered part of the educational record prior to the recording of the grade in the faculty grade book
- Personal Records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and educational personnel that: are kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record, and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual.
*Admissions Records will become part of the education record when a student is enrolled in classes.
3. What is the definition of a "student"?
A student is an individual who is enrolled in and actually attends an educational institution. The regulations provide that attendance includes, but is not limited to, attendance in person or by correspondence. Courts have held that individuals who merely audit courses or who are accepted to an educational institution but do not attend any classes are not "students" for purposes of FERPA. Individuals who "attend" classes but are not physically located on a campus are also students, thus including those who attend classes by video conference, satellite, internet, or other electronic information and telecommunications technologies.
4. What is the definition of "third party"?
A "third party" includes any individual or organization other than the student or the student's parent(s). With respect to third parties, even if the initial disclosure of protected information is permissible, FERPA limits the subsequent disclosure of the information by the third party. As such, once an educational institution discloses protected information to a third party, it must ensure that the third party does not itself improperly disclosed information in violation of FERPA.
5. What does FERPA really mean for students, faculty, or staff TCSPP?
Students have the right to:
- Inspect and review the educational record. A student may make an appointment with the Office of the Registrar to review the educational record
- Seek to amend the educational record. If supporting document can be provided, inaccurate student records can be updated
- Limit disclosure of information from those records. FRPA blocks can be applied to limit disclosure of any information which will prevent Faculty/Staff from indicating that an individual is a TCSPP student without their written permission
Students may not access:
- Financial statements of parents/guardians
- Confidential statements to which the student has waived access rights
- Records containing information about another student
Faculty and Staff are responsible for protecting the privacy rights of TCSPP students and their records. You should become familiar with the various requirements of FERPA, available here (http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html). TCSPP policy regarding the management of student records is based on federal legislation. The inappropriate disclosure of information can result in the withdrawal of federal funding. The Office of the Registrar is available for assistance if you have any specific questions.
6. How are sensitive materials disposed of?
Faculty and staff adhere to the appropriate retention schedule of documents and shred all other sensitive material.
7. What is the difference between directory information and non-directory information?
Directory information includes information that is not considered to be invasive if disclosed and it can be released to external organizations without a student's consent. The non-directory information would include any additional information outside of the list below. Directory information includes:
- Student name
- Email address(es)
- Telephone number(s)
- Date and place of birth
- Major field of study
- Degree Sought
- Expected date of completion of degree requirements and graduation
- Degrees and awards received
- Dates of attendance
- Full- or part-time enrollment status
- Previous educational agency or institution attended
- Participation in officially recognized activities
8. To which parties does FERPA allows disclosure of the education record?
- School officials with legitimate educational interest;
- Other schools to which a student is transferring ;
- Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
- Accrediting organizations;
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
- State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.
9. If a student puts a FERPA Block on their record, what kind of response is appropriate when asked for information about the student?
A FERPA block is a notification to TCSPP not to release any information (including directory information) to external organizations/individuals. A FERPA block restricts TCSPP employees from acknowledging that an individual is/was a TCSPP student. Faculty/Staff can respond by saying "I have no releasable information" if questioned. These types of questions can also be directed to the Office of the Registrar. Note that if the information does need to be released, students must provide their explicit consent in writing for each instance and can delay the release of information regarding graduation dates, enrollment dates, etc.
10. Can a FERPA block apply to partial information on the educational record but not all?
A student may submit the FERPA-Withhold Directory Information Request to the Office of the Registrar to block disclosure of the Directory Information, however, a student cannot block just partial directory information. Once the request is submitted, all directory information as identified on the request will be blocked.
11. If an academic department maintains a separate database of student information, are these records safeguarded?
Yes! All student records that are created and/or maintained by anyone at TCSPP are protected by FERPA.
12. If a student believes that a TCSPP faculty or staff member inappropriately disclosed information, what should s/he do? How should faculty/staff respond?
Students should contact the Office of the Registrar to have their concern addressed. Faculty/Staff can refer students to the Office of the Registrar.
13. FERPA-protected class information was placed on the web. There are no links to the information, but anyone can find it through an internet search. What should I do?
This should be reported to the academic department chair; so that the protected information can be removed immediately from public access. Generally, this occurrence is unintentional and many people mistakenly think that if they do not provide a link to a website, that it is private. Everyone must ensure that appropriate security measures are being utilized when providing information via the web.
14. Are there issues with exchanging information for student advising purposes via mail/e-mail?
It is always appropriate to communicate with a student by mail, provided that the student's address of record with TCSPP is being utilized. Users should exercise extreme caution in using e-mail to communicate confidential or sensitive matters and should not assume that e-mail is private or confidential. It is especially important to be careful to send messages only to the intended recipient(s). Correspondence should occur only to the student's official TCSPP e-mail address.
15. Letters of recommendation normally include discussion of student performance. Can this information be released? How so?
Students are advised to request letters of recommendation in a written format (such as e-mail correspondence from a TCSPP e-mail address) which will allow faculty to discuss their performance. If a student is requesting a letter for admission to a graduate program, they should provide a copy of the letter of recommendation form which generally indicates that the student has waived their right to review the letter of recommendation. Faculty should retain a copy of this form (and the student's written request) for their records.
16. Parents and spouses often inquire about their student's performance. What rights do they have in terms of access to student information?
All FERPA rights transfer from the parent to the student when the student either reaches the age of 18 or moves into post-secondary education, regardless of age. This means that a student's information cannot be discussed with a parent or spouse unless a FERPA Release Form has been submitted by the student indicating that they approve of the release of their information. FERPA Release Form specifically indicates who information may be released to and what category of information may be released, e.g. academic, financial aid, student account, etc. As faculty and staff will not always have access to FERPA release information, they should refer requests to the Office of the Registrar.
17. I pay some or all of my son/daughter/spouse's school bills. Does this give me a right to access the educational records of my child/spouse?
No. The University considers your son/daughter/spouse an adult, regardless of age or financial dependence.
18. How does TCSPP respond to subpoenas, court orders, or requests from law enforcement professionals for records?
All requests for student information, whether by subpoena, court order, or authorization should be sent to the campus' Office of the Registrar for review and processing. If the request calls for more information than is available directly from the Office of the Registrar, those materials will be compiled and submitted in a package response to the requestor.
19. How may faculty respond when a student uses the name as a reference? What are the liabilities?
Students should follow the protocol of providing a written request to faculty when asking permission to use their name as a reference. However, faculty may still be able to provide assistance. Faculty should notify their current/future students to ask permission to use their name as a reference and require written permission from each student. For faculty to be able to discuss student performance, written permission should be broadly worded as any topics outside the scope of the provided written permission should not be discussed by the faculty.
20. Can information regarding "top-notch" students be distributed in internal/external documents such as monthly/annual reports?
It is a FERPA violation to include information about any student who has directed TCSPP not to release their information. Without advance written consent, it would be a violation to disclose grades/performance indicates for any student. Faculty/staff should obtain written permission from students if they wish to include their information in an internal/external document. The department would need to retain the written permission as documentation about the release.
21. Can graded papers be left in a public area, such as a box outside of a faculty member's office so that students can conveniently pick them up?
No. Although it may seem like a good service to provide students with a quick return, there is nothing preventing anyone else from inappropriately sifting through all of the papers and possibly obtaining additional student information, all of which are protected by FERPA.
22. Can student lists and grades be posted on the internet?
No, FERPA does not permit the public disclosure of personally identifiable student information. Posting grades on a public website is a violation.
23. Can course rosters with student identifiable information (such as contact numbers, e-mail addresses, ID numbers, etc.) be passed around at the beginning of the semester so that students can confirm their information is accurate?
While there is an expectation that students may learn each other's names through the course of regular class activities during the term, official class rosters include student names and ID numbers, which may not be disclosed without the advance written consent of each individual student. Attendance collection rosters that are FERPA compliant are available for distribution.
24. What if a parent or spouse needs access to a student's record as a result of a health or safety emergency?
Requests should be directed to the University Registrar, with a description of the need to contact the student and nature of the emergency. The University Registrar may disclose a limited amount of information to appropriate parties in connection with an emergency when the information is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or other persons.
FERPA Changes in 2008 allows an educational institution to disclose information from student record without student consent if a student is judged to present an "articulable and significant threat to the health or safety" of himself or other.
25. Can a next-of-kin receive Academic Information for a Deceased Student?
FERPA's protection of personally-identifiable information in the education record ends upon the death of a student or alumnus. Within the first year following the death of a student or alumnus, TCSPP will release the education records of the deceased student to the following individuals, upon written request:
- If the student submitted a signed FERPA – Student Authorization Release Form which designated the person(s) eligible to request and/or receive education records, the information will be released to the individual named on that form.
- The decedent's next of kin. The request must be accompanied by official documentation.
- The individual designated as the personal representative of the deceased student's estate. The request must be accompanied by official documentation.
- In response to a subpoena or court order.
- To any other individual, if determined by the institution to be in the best interest of the deceased student or the institution.
After one year has elapsed following the death of a student or alumni, TCSPP may release the education records of the deceased student at the University's discretion.