FERPA & Student Records
FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
What kind of records does FERPA protect?
FERPA applies to personally identifiable information in education records. Any record - in any medium, including handwriting and email - which is directly related to a student and maintained by the University of South Dakota, a school or college of the University of South Dakota, or party acting on behalf of USD is considered an education record.
- Education records do not include the following:
- Sole possession records - records kept in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record;
- Student Health Services, Student Counseling Center, Counseling and Family Therapy Center, Psychological Services Center, TRIO Program, and Office
- Disability Services records maintained solely for the purpose of that department;
- University Police Department records; and
- Alumni records collected about an individual after that person is no longer in attendance at the University of South Dakota.
What is included in Directory Information?
FERPA allows certain information — known as directory information — to be disclosed without the student's permission. At the University of South Dakota, directory information includes the following items:
- Student name
- Major field of study
- Past and present participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Enrollment status (undergraduate or graduate, full- or part-time)
- Dates of attendance
- Degree(s) conferred (including dates)
- Honors and awards received (but not scholarships)
- Most recent school(s) attended
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
Who has access to student educational records?
According to FERPA, non-directory information may not be released without prior written consent from the student. Exceptions are listed in the USD student handbook and USD student records policy and include the following:
- School officials with legitimate educational interest
- Other schools to which a student is transferring
- Specified educational officials for audit or evaluation purposes
- Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student
- Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of USD
- Accrediting organizations
- To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena
- Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies
Frequently Asked Questions
What are my student rights under FERPA?
FERPA provides you with certain rights with respect to your education records:
- the right to inspect and review your education records
- the right to request to amend your education records to ensure that they are not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student's privacy or other rights
- the right to a hearing if your request to correct an alleged inaccuracy is denied
- the right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in your education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent
- the right to file a complaint with the U.S. Dept. of Education concerning alleged failures by the University of South Dakota or any of its schools or colleges to comply with the requirements of FERPA.
USD students are notified of their FERPA rights annually in the university’s student handbook, produced by the Office of the Dean of Students.
Can my parents access my records?
Without your express, written permission, your parents, like the general public, do not have access to your education records. Likewise, if you have restricted your directory information from access by the public with a confidentiality request, then those items of directory information are considered confidential, and cannot be released to your parents or other third parties.
To allow your parents access to your record, please complete the FERPA Release of Information Form.
FERPA Release of Information Form
How can I restrict access to my directory information?
If you are currently enrolled at USD, you may request to have your directory information made confidential by completing the confidentiality request form. The confidentiality request is available to all students during the first 10 days of the first semester in which the student is enrolled. Your confidentiality request will remain in effect until you rescind it.
How do I request to review my education records?
You may request to inspect and review your education record by submitting the Student Request to Inspect and Review Education Records Form and submitting it to the Office of the Registrar. You will be asked to precisely identify the record or records you wish to inspect.
Request to Inspect and Review Educational Records
May I access a student's education record?Faculty members do not have access to a student's education record unless it is specifically required in their normal job duties and responsibilities. Access to a student's education record may be given to appropriate university officials such as administrators, faculty members or staff who require this access to perform their legitimate educational duties. As the guardian of these records, the university registrar resolves any disputes regarding "legitimate educational interest."
What information may I disclose to parents?Faculty members are advised not to discuss information about a student with parents - or any other third party - without the student's written consent (Release of Information Authorization form). If a student has opted to restrict directory information, then directory information is also considered confidential and may not be disclosed.
What information may I include in a letter of recommendation?
Writing a letter of recommendation may require written permission from the student in order to access the student's education record or disclose information - such as grades, GPA and class rank - to a third party. The Release of Information Authorization form specifies the purpose for the request, the records to be disclosed and the individuals or parties to whom the information may be released.
A letter of recommendation may include any information obtained through observation or personal experience with the student as long as that information is not recorded and on file at the university.
How does FERPA affect the return of assignments?Personally identifiable information about a student may not be disclosed without the student's written permission. Faculty member should take care in protecting this information (grades, ID numbers) when returning assignments, tests and papers.
How does FERPA affect the posting of grades?FERPA and USD policy prohibit the release of personally identifiable information without the student's written consent. Faculty members should use WebAdvisor and other resources available in myUSD to privately and securely communicate grades and other academic-related information to individual students.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) protects the privacy of student records by requiring prior written consent before disclosing personally identifiable information to a third party such as a student's parents. This federal law applies to all colleges and universities that receive funding from the federal government.
We encourage parents to consult with their students in planning for access to education records.
When your student was still in elementary and high school, FERPA provided both you and your child with rights to access and control your child's educational records. Now that your child is in college, these same laws transfer ownership of the records directly to your son or daughter. While you as a parent certainly have an interest in your student's academic progress, you no longer have automatic access to your student's academic records without written consent of the student. Your student may grant you permission to access his/her records by submitting USD's FERPA release of information form.
FERPA Release of Information Form
Even though you may be paying for your student's education, FERPA considers records created and maintained by the financial aid office to be education records and may not be disclosed without the student's consent. These records may include the following:
- Financial records or student's account
- Records relating to federal student aid funds
- Federal work-study payroll
- Satisfactory Academic Progress documentation
- Verification documents
- Cost of attendance documents including any adjustment documentation
- Any materials received about the student from the student or student's parents or records used to make decisions about the student
- Records of work-study students are all also considered education records and are protected by FERPA.
Your student may provide you with written permission to access his/her financial records by submitting the following form as provided by the USD Office of Financial Aid.
School disciplinary records are protected by FERPA and may not be disclosed without the student's consent. The final result of a disciplinary proceeding, however, may be disclosed. At the written request of the student, a student disciplinary record may be released to parents or other third party individuals who request such information.
Drug & Alcohol Policy Violations
FERPA permits colleges and universities to inform parents of drug and alcohol policy violations committed by their students. University of South Dakota personnel understand that parents are partners in responding to issues of substance abuse. As a result, it is the policy of the university to notify parents or guardians in the event of an alcohol and/or drug policy violation by their student if the student is under 21 years of age.
FERPA applies to education records and does not cover counseling or medical records. However, other laws and professional ethics do. In general, professionals working in the medical and counseling fields will not release student information except in emergency situations.
Consult Your Student
As a parent, the easiest and quickest way to receive information on your child's grades, finances and other education records is to have your student supply it directly to you. Even if your student grants you written permission to access his/her education records, the university does not automatically send this information to parents or other designated third parties. If you have received permission to review education records from your student, you will need to provide a written request for a copy of the desired information by sending a letter or fax with your signature.
Department of Education FERPA Website