FERPA Privacy Rights

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) limits the disclosure of information from student "education records", requires College officials to protect education records, and permits students to inspect their education records. Education records include virtually all records maintained by an educational institution, in any format, that identify a student on its face or from which a student's identity could be deduced from descriptive or other information contained in the record, either alone or in combination with other publicly available information.

  • FERPA and Parents. FERPA allows communication from student records with parents, as long as the student is claimed on their parent's tax forms as dependents. Disclosure is also allowed if there is a health and safety emergency (see below). That said, Union College's policy is to not discuss a student’s progress unless the student gives permission unless the student is subject to serious discipline, suspension, or expulsion due to an honor or conduct code violation.  
  • Disclosing Personal Information. FERPA applies only to information derived from student education records, and not to personal knowledge derived from direct, personal experience with a student. A faculty or staff member who personally observes a student engaging in erratic and threatening behavior is not prohibited by FERPA from disclosing that observation to other "school officials" who have "legitimate educational interests" in the information; however, if the personal observation is recorded and revealed to another College official (e.g., via email) that record is now subject to FERPA.
  • Protection of Health and Safety. FERPA permits the disclosure of information from student education records only to appropriate parties either inside or outside of Union (e.g., parents), but only to the extent that the disclosure is necessary, in connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals and is limited to information that is necessary to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals. Safety concerns warranting disclosure could include a student's suicidal statements or ideations, usually erratic and angry behaviors, or similar conduct that others would reasonably see as posing a risk of serious harm.
  • What Should I Do? If you are concerned that a student may engage in violent behavior, toward self or others, and the threat appears to be imminent, you should contact the Campus Safety immediately at 388‐6911. If you have general concerns you may also call the Dean of Students at 388-6116.

(excerpted from the Students in Distress Manual)