A professor receives a phone call from a local investigator asking if he can verify if his student was scheduled for a class on a specific day and time. The investigator explains he is involved in an investigation with this student and would like this information. Is the professor legally allowed to give this investigator information?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) that governs access to educational information and records by the public such as investigators and police officers, helps protect not only students but teachers as well. Teachers cannot give out disclosed information about students to law enforcement unless there is a warrant or court order, under the FERPA Act. FERPA protects teachers’ and students’ personal information.
“I think FERPA is a great federal law,” said Angela Tom, a parent of a UWG student. “Once students become adults, they choose to go to college and therefore their grades are their own private information.”
Teachers’ and students’ educational protection has always been a high priority for UWG. Once a student turns 18 or has begun a postsecondary education, all rights transfer to the student. College professors are not allowed to give parents grades or insights on students unless written consent has been submitted or the student is claimed as a dependent. Directory Information, which is information that is considered not harmful or invasive, may be given out to parents. This includes student participation in activities or sports, degrees, honors or awards, and the most recent school attended.
“At the collegiate level I think FERPA is a good thing,” said Professor Dave Ayers of UWG. “I believe that the grades a student makes is not the business of anyone that the student does not want to share with.”
Academic advisors at UWG can see students’ grades for professional purposes. Advisors are professionals used to help lead students in a positive direction during their college careers. Many advisors at UWG are trained on how to handle situations that could possibly violate FERPA.
“When I was receiving my Ph.D., I was glad to have a law that protected me from releasing my grades,” said Ayers. “Not that I made bad grades, but it was reassuring to know there was a policy in place supporting my decision.”
UWG helps students protect their educational privacy by guaranteeing their right to inspect and review their educational records, and to be able to have control over the disclosure of those records. UWG also would like for anyone to fill out a release from the student to obtain directory information. Many tips for teachers and students can be found on the UWG website, on FERPA, FERPA forms, and tips on what would be considered a violation of FERPA laws.
“Before FERPA it was a common practice to post grades publicly,” said Ayers. “UWG has done a great job at making sure teachers know these laws, and also letting students know their educational rights.”