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Confidentiality / FERPA

Guidelines for Faculty and Staff Relating to Education Records

 


Introduction

Education records are kept by University offices to facilitate the educational development of students.  Faculty and staff members may also keep informal records relating to their functional responsibilities with individual students.

A federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as amended (FERPA), also known as the Buckley Amendment, affords students certain rights concerning their education records.  Students have the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from their records.  Educational institutions have the responsibility to prevent improper disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records.

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Student and Parents Rights Relating to Education Records

Students have the right to know about the purposes, content, and location of information kept as part of their education records.

They have the right to gain access to and challenge the content of their education records.  FERPA was not intended to provide a process to be used to question substantive judgments that are correctly recorded.  The right of challenge is not intended to allow students to contest, for example, a grade in a course because they felt a higher grade should have been assigned.

Students also have the right to expect that information in their education records will be kept confidential, disclosed only with their permission or under provisions of the law.

FERPA considers all students independent which limits the education record information that may be released to parents, without the student's specific written permission, to directory information.  Parents have the right, under certain conditions, to gain access to information in the student's education records.  Parents who claimed the student as a dependent on their most recent IRS 1040 are permitted access to the student's education records.

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Directory Information

Some information about students is considered directory information.  Directory information may be publically shared by the institution unless the student has taken formal action to restrict its release.

Directory information includes:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Email (beginning October 15, 2013)
  • Phone
  • Program of Study
  • Participation in Officially Recognized Activities and Sports
  • Appropriate Personal Athletic Statistical Data
  • Most Recent Educational Institution Attended
  • Date of Attendance
  • Degrees and Awarded Received (including dates)
  • Enrollment Status (full/part-time)
  • Class Level
  • Date of Birth

Students may elect to suppress their Directory Information by going to the Self Service Center in MaineStreet.  Under the "Personal Information" section is a drop down box with the words "other personal...".  From this drop down box the student should select "Privacy Settings" and then click on the "go" button (>>).  A new screen will appear with FERPA information and a pair of radio buttons.  Selecting the button "Do not release any directory information" will suppress all directory information until the student decides otherwise.  The University assumes that the student does not object to the release of the Directory Information unless the student changes their privacy settings.

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Release of Non-Directory Information

There are forms that the University has created to grant access to a student's educational record; both of these forms supersedes the suppression of Directory Information.

The first form is the Student Consent to Release Information (PDF).  This form allows students to give access to their educational records to specific individuals.  This access remains in effect until the student revokes permission in writing.

The second form is the Financial Aid Student Consent to Release Information (PDF).  This form can be used by parents who claimed the student as a dependent on their IRS 1040.  These individuals are permitted access to the student's education records.  This access is for only the academic year that follows the tax year.

Once the Office of Student Records receives one of these completed forms, the information will be documented in MaineStreet (Peoplesoft) in the Service Indicator module.

Questions should be directed to the Office of Student Records at (207) 768-9581.

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Education Records

Education records are specifically defined as records, files, documents, and other materials that contain information directly related to a student and maintained by the University or someone acting for the University according to policy.

Excluded from education records are records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and ancillary educational personnel in the sole possession of the maker and that are not accessible or revealed to any other person, except for a substitute.  Additionally, notes of a professor or staff member intended for his or her own use are not part of the education record, nor are records of police services, application records of students not admitted to the University, alumni records, or records of physicians, psychiatrists, psychologists, or other recognized professionals.

Records relating to an individual who is employed by the University not as a result of his or her status as a student are also excluded.  However, employment records relating to University students who are employed as a result of their status as students are considered education records.

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When is Prior Consent Not Required?

The institution may release records without consent, but is not required to do so.  Some examples of the exceptions for having a release include:

  • "School Officials" with a "legitimate educational interest" / "need to know"; Employees and legal agents have access to education records in order to perform their official, educationally-related duties;
  • Companies that the university has a contractual agreement with in order to do tasks normally done at the university (i.e. grading tools as part of textbook agreements):
  • Disclosure to another institution where student seeks to enroll or is enrolled;
  • Disclosure in connection with the receipt of financial aid (validating eligibility);
  • Disclosure to state/local officials in conjunction with legislative requirements;
  • Disclosure to organizations conducting studies to improve instruction, or to accrediting organizations;
  • Disclosure to parents of dependent studies (IRS definition); FERPA considers all students independent which limits the education record information that may be released to parent, without the student's specific written permission, to directory information. Parents have the right, under certain conditions, to gain access to information in their student's education records. Parents who claimed the student as a dependent on their most recent IRS 1040 are permitted access to the student's education records.
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • Disclosure for a health/safety emergency; and Disclosure of directory information
  • Disciplinary information (Warner Amendment):
    • Disclosure to the alleged victim, information from disciplinary proceedings;
    • Only when found in violation, and only for crimes of violence-release of name, sanction and outcome (public information); and
  • Disclosure to parents of any student under the age of 21, a violation of federal, state, local or institutional laws/regulation related to substance abuse (Foley Amendment).

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Some Guidelines for Faculty and Staff
  1. DO check students' FERPA and Service Indicators in MaineStreet to see if the student has granted individuals access to their educational record or have suppressed access to their directory information.
  2. DO keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your teaching and advising responsibilities.  Private notes of a faculty member concerning a student and intended for the faculty member's own use are not part of the student's education records.
  3. DO keep any personal professional records relating to individual students separate from their education records.  Private records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and ancillary educational personnel are to be kept in the sole possession of the maker and are not to be accessible or revealed to any other person, except a substitute.
  4. DO change factual information regarding grades and performance in an education record when the student is able to provide valid documentation that information is inaccurate or misleading.  The substantive judgment of a faculty member about a student's work, expressed in grades and/or evaluations, is not within the purview of students' right to challenge their education records.
  5. DO NOT post students' grades using any part of their social security number.  Please have the student select a unique number code.
  6. DO NOT leave papers, graded exam books, or lab reports containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places.  Students are not to have access to the scores and grades of others in their class.
  7. DO NOT request information from the education record custodian without a legitimate educational interest and the appropriate authority to do so.
  8. DO NOT share education record information, including grades or grade point averages, with other faculty or staff members of the University unless their official responsibilities identify their "legitimate educational interest" in that information for that student.
  9. Remember that you may not release GPA information for any reason i.e. Academic Reference.  This information is not Directory Information and cannot be released to anyone without expressed written consent from the student.
  10. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and do not release the requested information.  Contact the office of Student Records for guidance.

Questions about FERPA can be addressed to the Office of Student Records, (207) 768-9581.

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Take the FERPA Test
  1. Click here to login to the testing site.
  2. Login using your UMS (MaineStreet) credentials.
  3. Click on the "Take a Test" link.
  4. Under "Available Tests," click on the "FERPA 101" link.
  5. Make sure to answer all the questions and then click on the "Grade Exam" button at the bottom of the page.  You may retake the exam if necessary.

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