Right to Privacy
As an instructor, you cannot discuss a student's grade or any other aspect of his/her educational record with anyone other than that student not even with his/her parents or prospective employer. Federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), protects the privacy of students' educational records. According to the law and University policy, students have "the right to consent to disclosures of personally identifiable information contained in the student's educational records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent" (University Regulations 2007-2008, www.purdue.edu/univregs/pages/stu_rec/stu_rec.html). This has implications for how you handle requests for information about a student's academic performance as well as how you post grades and return graded work to students. Before talking with parents or potential employers about any aspect of a student's educational record, be sure to have the permission of the student in writing to release the requested information to that person. When returning students' graded work, you must ensure that no other individual can see or pick up work other than their own. Similarly, grades cannot be posted in any manner that allows one student to identify the grade of another student.
No records available at this time.
- Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) — Information for Students at Purdue University
- Purdue University's Office of the President Executive memorandum No. C-51
- Purdue University's University Regulations 2007-2008, Part 6, Section I - Student Records
- U.S. Department of Education, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) Home
- Purdue University — FERPA Basics for Staff
- Purdue University, Certification Process, Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974
Words of Wisdom
- What are suggested dos and don'ts for posting students' grades?Dos
- Do post grades by using unique numbers, letters, or other symbols known only to you and each individual student. Each student's unique identifier may be assigned by you as the instructor or chosen by the student. Make sure the order in which you post the grades is not alphabetic
- Do use an electronic course management system such as Blackboard Vista for posting grades. Such systems protect privacy by allowing each student access to only his/her own grades
- Do hand students' graded work directly to each student in or out of class. Graded work may be passed back by the instructor or by teaching assistants
- Do make sure that grades are not visible when returning student work. For example, the grade may be placed on the last page of a paper or the paper may be placed in an envelope for return the student
- Don't post students' grades by their name
- Don't use either the full or part of the student's identification number or social security number when posting grades
- Don't leave graded student work such as quizzes, tests, homework, lab reports, and papers in public places. For example, students' papers should never be left in an envelope outside the instructor's door for students to search through to locate their own
- Don't pass a group of papers back to your class so that each student has to search through the pile to find their own
- Don't ask students in the class to hand back graded work other students
- May I email students their grades?
Email systems are not necessarily private. Since messages sent via email may be forwarded across many systems before reaching their destination and standard maintenance of computer systems may unintentionally capture messages, emails may be read by others than those to whom they were addressed. Also, a person could send you an email claiming to be someone they are not. Therefore, it is recommended that you only use email to convey grade information if your student has sent you an INDIVIDUAL email requesting this information, you are CERTAIN that the email is from the individual whose grade is being sought, and you respond to his/her INDIVIDUAL email (and not a listserv for the entire class).
According to the Graduate School "a student's identity may be verified if you ask a full series of verifying questions: full name; local and home addresses; guardian name and address; date of birth; student identification number; school; course load, course numbers and course titles; grade received in a particular course. If you have access, go into the student's academic record to ask questions about the student's historical information, if needed." (www.gradschool.purdue.edu/gradschool/Current/sippfaqs.html).
- May I tell a student his/her grade over the phone?
Grade information may be given over the phone only if you have verified the identify of the caller as specified in the response to the previous question ("May I email students their grades?"). If you have any uncertainty about the identity of the caller, do not release the information.
- What if a parent calls wanting to know how his/her child is doing in my class?
Without written permission of the student, you may not disclose any information to parents about how their child is doing in your class unless their parent claims the student as a dependent when filing their income tax. If the child is a dependent, you can refer the parents to the Office of the Registrar (Record Services, 46155). The Registrar's Office will request the necessary documentation before revealing information about the student's academic performance. It is important to note, however, that dependent status does not require you to release academic performance information to the parents —it only permits you to do so. To foster open parent-child communication, you might encourage the parents to ask their son or daughter for the information they seek or sign a consent to obtain this information.
- What if a prospective employer or program to which the student has applied requests information about the student's record or qualifications?
Without the written permission of the student, you may not disclose (either verbally or in writing) any personally identifiable information contained within the student's educational record (e.g., grades, GPA) to prospective employers or programs. However, you may make statements about the student that are based on your personal observation or knowledge of that student.
- What should be included in a written permission I obtain from students to release information contained in their educational record?
Permission to release information contained in a student's education record requires that the permission be written, signed and dated; identify the records to be revealed; state the reason for revealing the information; and specify the party or parties to whom the information may be released.
- Are there exceptions to this policy (i.e., circumstances under which personally identifiable information from the student's educational record may be revealed without consent)?
One exception to this policy allows disclosure without consent to school officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information. "A school official has legitimate educational interest if the offical needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility" (http://www.purdue.edu/Registrar/Forms/general/FERPA_Brochure_Students.pdf)