FERPA and Privacy of Student Records

As an employee of the University of Montana you should have at least a basic understanding of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Some employees who process and maintain students’ education records must have detailed knowledge of FERPA. This Snip will provide you with some basic information and then let you know where you can go to learn more.

Prohibited Disclosures

Generally speaking, FERPA prohibits us from disclosing information from student education records to anyone (including parents) other than the student to whom the records pertain, without the student’s written consent. Education records include not only academic records, but also all other records that contain personally identifiable information about a student (e.g., student information database, class schedules, financial aid and account records, disciplinary records, emails).

Limited Exceptions

There are some exceptions to the prohibition on disclosing student records. Some of the most common exceptions are:

  • Disclosure to other university officials who need the information in order to perform their university duties and functions;
  • Disclose if we have a good-faith belief that there is a health or safety emergency and we disclose to trained professionals who need to handle the emergency, such as University Police;
  • Directory information as defined by UM (name, email address, telephone number, dates of attendance, degrees and awards received, major and minor fields of study, class, participation in officially recognized activities and sports, most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student, weight and height, if student is a member of an intercollegiate athletic team).

Exception to Exception

Caution! Students have the right to “opt out” of having their directory information disclosed. Therefore, you should not disclose any student record information unless you have confirmed with the Office of the Registrar that the student has not requested that their directory information be kept confidential.

Do Not

Following are some things that we should NOT do:

  • Post a list of student grades by SSN or ID number
  • Leave graded tests or papers out in a stack for students to pick up
  • Send student information on a post card instead of a sealed envelope
  • Discuss student records where others might overhear
  • Release student information by phone or email without first verifying the identity of the recipient
  • Access student information for reasons unrelated to your official University duties.

More Information

For questions about privacy of student records or other FERPA questions, please contact the Office of the Registrar or the Office of Legal Counsel. All employees should also take the short online FERPA training which will be available soon. Watch for a further announcement.