Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act FERPA for Faculty and Staff (FAQ)
Frequently Asked Questions
When do FERPA rights begin?
FERPA governs and protects students’ rights to their individual educational records. Students’ FERPA rights begin at the age of 18 years or when they enroll in an institution of higher education, whichever is earlier. A student is considered enrolled at the University of Kentucky upon their first day of class.
What information about students may be released to persons within the University?
All other personally identifiable information in a student's educational record is confidential and may only be disclosed to University officials who have a legitimate need to know the information contained in the student's education record.
What are the University's guidelines for determining who is a University official under FERPA?
A school official is a:
- person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position, including health or medical staff;
- person who is employed by the University Police Department;
- student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or who is assisting another University official in performing her or his tasks; or
- contractor, consultant, volunteer or other third parties provided that the outside party:
- performs an institutional service which would otherwise be provided by employees of the University;
- has been determined to meet the criteria set forth for being a "school official with a legitimate interest" in the education records;
- is under the direct control of the University with respect to the use and maintenance of education records; and
- uses education records only for authorized purposes and may not re-disclose personally identifiable information from education records to other parties, under third party has specific authorization from the University to do so and such use is otherwise permitted by FERPA.
What are the University's guidelines for determining when a University official has a legitimate educational interest in a student's record?
A University official has a legitimate educational interest if the official requires the information for the purpose of fulfilling her or his official duties, including but not limited to:
- performing a task that is specified in her or his position description or contract agreement or within the scope of assigned professional responsibilities;
- performing a task related to a student's education;
- performing a task related to the discipline of a student;
- providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement or financial aid;
- maintaining the safety and security of the campus; or
- participating in or conducting studies, evaluations, or assessment of educational programs.
Do I have to release information from a student’s educations record?
FERPA regulations state that you MAY release directory information about a student, but FERPA does not require or compel the institution to do so.
What do I do about subpoenas?
If you receive a subpoena regarding a student’s education record, please contact, the Office of General Counsel, before you respond. There are FERPA regulations that the University must comply with before responding to subpoenas or court orders.
May I release confidential information to officially registered student groups?
Student groups do NOT have legitimate educational interest and consequently may not be given confidential information about a student or students without each student’s express, written permission.
May I access confidential information about students?
Access to personally identifiable information contained in educational records may be given to appropriate University administrators, faculty members, or staff members who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. Faculty members do not require knowledge of student academic records unless their normal job duties specifically require access. This type of access is termed “legitimate educational interest.”
How does FERPA affect letters of recommendation?
Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student to allow you 1) to access the student’s educational records and, 2) to disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member may access a student’s educational records without the student’s express written permission only if specific job duties, such as the duties of an academic advisor, require access to those records. However, a faculty member, or any other appropriate University official, may not disclose confidential information from a student’s educational records to a third party without express, written permission from the student. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed without the student’s consent.
What information about students may I disclose to parents?
Without the express, written permission of the student, parents, like all other third parties, including designees, may have access only to the student’s directory information. If a student has restricted his or her directory information, then the directory information is considered confidential and you should respond to any inquiries by saying “I have no record of such an individual.” Confidential information may be released to parents/guardians only with the expressed, written permission of the student.
Please refer parents/guardians seeking information from their students’ education records to the Office of the University Registrar.
Does FERPA affect the return of assignments?
Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student’s express, written permission. Therefore, extreme care should be used to protect such information (e.g., student ID numbers, SS#s) when returning assignments, term papers and exams to students.
Does FERPA affect the posting of grades?
University policy prohibits the disclosure of any confidential student information in a personally identifiable manner without the student’s written consent. Faculty members may use student-specific, password-protected systems (such as University approved email addresses, myUK and Canvas) to communicate academic work, grades or other confidential information to students on an individual basis.
How do I properly dispose of confidential information?
Dispose of all material containing confidential information (such as tests, papers, class rosters) by shredding or by placing them in a university approved and secure receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.
How can I get training on FERPA?
The University of Kentucky provides an online web-based training for faculty and staff. In most cases, this training will be assigned to you during your onboarding, but it may also be access through the myUK Learning platform.