FERPA & Confidentiality

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records.

1 – The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day the college receives a request for access. Students should submit to the registrar, dean, or head of the academic department written requests that identify the record(s) they wish to inspect. The college official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

2 – The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate or misleading. Students may ask the college to amend a record that they believe is inaccurate or misleading. They should write the college official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record they want changed, and specify why it is inaccurate or misleading. If the college decides not to amend the record as requested by the student, the college will notify the student of the decision and advise the student of his or her right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.

3 – The right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent. One exception, which permits disclosure without consent, is disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is defined as a person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit and health staff); a person or company with whom the college has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; 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 responsibility.The college may disclose certain Directory Information without a student’s prior written consent. The college designates the following as Directory Information:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Telephone number
  • E-mail address
  • Date and place of birth
  • Class, academic major
  • Enrollment status
  • Honors (including Dean’s List)
  • Degrees (including dates) and awards received
  • Dates of attendance
  • Previous institution(s) attended
  • Participation in officially recognized sports and activities
  • Weight and height of athletic team members

If a student does not want this information to be released, the student must request in writing that it be withheld. Requests should be directed to:

Registrar’s Office
Saint Michael’s College
One Winooski Park
Colchester, VT 05439

4 – The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the college to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the Office that administers FERPA is:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202

As of January 3, 2012, the U.S. Department of Education’s FERPA regulations expand the circumstances under which your education records and personally identifiable information (PII) contained in such records — including your 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.

Confidentiality Information for SMC Faculty & Staff

Academic institutions are required by federal law to treat student academic records as confidential. Under the provisions of FERPA, students have certain rights to privacy concerning the release of their educational records.

Many college offices, faculty and staff have access to student records through the SMC network. This access has been established to provide information in a timely fashion for those who work with students, but it also provides the potential for inadvertent or deliberate violations of students’ privacy rights. It is the responsibility of faculty and staff to be aware of limitations on how this information may be used.

Though the law is continually being interpreted in the courts, the college has developed the following general guidelines for the SMC community.

  • Student records may be viewed by college officials for college business. Instructors, advisers, deans, or department chairs may review a student’s academic records, such as courses taken and grades earned. Such access is limited to those with a legitimate educational interest in the student’s record. Viewing information for personal reasons is a violation of the student’s privacy rights.
  • Because FERPA gives students the right of access to their official educational records, information may be disclosed to the individual student. In the case of phone calls, however, you should not release information unless you are certain that the caller is the student.
  • Student data may not be disclosed to third parties unless the student provides a written statement permitting release. This prohibition includes the student’s parents unless the student is a dependent as defined for federal income tax purposes.
  • Information may not be released to government officials (including those from law enforcement agencies) without a written release from the student or a court order. Any subpoenas or court orders for student academic records should be referred to the Registrar’s Office.
  • When in doubt, information should not be released. For example, if a caller needs to know where a student is because of an emergency, never look up a student’s class schedule and give it out. Instead, refer the caller to Public Safety personnel, who will locate the student if they determine the call is legitimate.
  • The posting of grades is not permitted, unless it is done with some system of codes that adequately prevents the identification of the students. Faculty should also avoid the practice of leaving graded exams or papers in an area to be picked up by students.
  • Anyone with access to student records must observe the FERPA restrictions. Student employees must receive FERPA training and observe all confidentiality provisions.
  • It is important for all college employees to be aware of and to follow these guidelines. Violations of students’ privacy rights can result in legal action or in the elimination of federal aid to the college. Any questions may be directed to the Registrar’s Office.