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tennessee technological university

Office of the Registrar

FERPA Basics for Faculty/Instructional Staff

The Essence

  • Federal law designed to protect the privacy of education records. It also provides guidelines for appropriately using and releasing student education records.
  • It is intended that students’ rights be broadly defined and applied. Therefore, consider the student as the “owner” of the information in his or her education record, and the institution as the “custodian” of that record.

Key Terms/Definitions

“Education Records”include any record maintained by the institution that contains information that is personally identifiable to a student (in whatever format or medium) with some narrowly defined exceptions: law enforcement records, medical/psychological treatment records, alumni (created after the student graduated or left TTU), non-student status employment records, and sole possession notes.

“Directory Information:” Those data items that are generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if publicly available. This information cannot be released if student has a “no release” on his or her record.

TTU Student Directory Information
  • name
  • date & place of birth
  • weight & height of athletic teams
  • address
  • program of study
  • enrollment status
  • phone number
  • dates of attendance
  • grade level
  • e-mail address
  • officially recognized activities & sports
  • degrees & awards received

“Parent:”   With reference to FERPA, the term “parent” refers to either parent (including custodial and non-custodial, if divorced).

When do FERPA rights begin?

A FERPA-related college education record begins for a student when he or she enrolls in a higher education institution. At a postsecondary institution, rights belong to the student in attendance, regardless of the student’s age.

Basic Rights of Students under the Act

  • Be notified annually of their FERPA rights.

  • Inspect and review their records.

  • Amend an incorrect record.

  • Consent to disclosure (with exceptions).

Some Specific Issues

Posting grades: Since grades can never be directory information, it is inappropriate to post grades in a public setting. An instructor may, however, post grades if the grades are posted in such a manner that only the instructor and the individual student can identify the individual and his or her grade. Grades should never be posted by any portion of the SSN. Additionally, it is recommended that such a posted list should not be in the same order as the class roster or in alphabetical order.

Web-based tools to support classes: Only directory information can be available to the general public and other class members! Courses supported by class Web sites and/or discussion groups must take extra precautions to not inadvertently release non-directory student information; Web-based tools employ a security layer so that only class members and instructors can access appropriate information.

Students opting for no release in the classroom setting: Students cannot choose to be anonymous in the classroom setting. If a student has chosen “no release” for his or her directory information, that does not mean that an instructor cannot call on him or her by name in class or that the student’s email address cannot be displayed on an electronic classroom support tool such as a discussion board, blog, or chat feature.