Student Rights Related to Educational Records
This section covers general regulations related to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and its amendments. Information on other policies and regulations of the institution can be found in other sections of this handbook. Respect Graduate School has a retention schedule, which is based on the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admission Officers’ (AACRAO) Retention of Records: Guide for Retention and Disposal of Student Records (2000 Edition). The Registrar of Respect Graduate School retains written documents submitted to the archives.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 and its amendments are federal laws that afford students certain rights with respect to their educational records. RGS will maintain the confidentiality of student educational records in accordance with provisions of the Act and will accord all rights under the Act to current and former students of RGS who are declared independent.
Educational records are those directly related to students and maintained by RGS. They do not include the following:
• Records of instructional, supervisory and administrative personnel and ancillary educational personnel that are in the sole possession of the creator and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except a substitute who may temporarily perform the duties of the creator
• Records of a law enforcement unit of RGS that are maintained separately from educational records, are maintained solely for law enforcement purposes, and are not disclosed to anyone other than law enforcement officers (provided that the educational records of RGS may not be disclosed to the law enforcement unit by request of the student)
• Records relating to those employed by RGS that are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to personnel in their capacity as employees, and are not used for another purpose. Note: Records of persons employed solely as a consequence of RGS attendance, e.g., tutors and work-study students, are educational records
• Records, including student health records, created and maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist or other recognized medical or counseling professional or paraprofessional, to be used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and not to be disclosed to anyone other than for treatment purposes, allowing that such records may be disclosed to physicians or professionals of the student’s choice (Note: Treatment in this context does not include remedial education activities or other activities that are part of the program of instruction at RGS)
• Records of the institution that contain only information relating to persons after they are no longer students at the institution, e.g., the accomplishments of alumni
• Records of the institution relating to violations of state, federal or institutional regulations pertaining to alcohol or drugs
Rights of Inspection
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act provides students with the right to inspect and review information contained in their educational records; to challenge the content of those records that students consider to be inaccurate, misleading or in violation of their privacy or other rights; to attend a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory; and to submit explanatory statements for inclusion in their files if they deem the decisions of the hearing panel unacceptable. The Registrar has been assigned to coordinate the inspection and review procedures for student educational records, which include admissions, personal, academic and financial files, and academic, cooperative education and placement records.
Request for Review
Students wishing to review their educational records must make a written request to the RGS Registrar, listing the item(s) to be reviewed. Only those records covered by the Act will be available for review. The items requested shall be made available no later than thirty calendar days following receipt of the written request. A copy of the academic record may be refused if a hold has been placed for non-payment of financial obligations. Copies may be made at the student’s expense. Students have the right to receive a copy of the educational record when failure to provide a copy would prevent the student from inspecting and reviewing the record, e.g., when distance prevents the student from having ready access to campus.
Limitations on Student Rights
There are some limitations to the rights of students to inspect records, in the following instances:
• Confidential letters and recommendations that are placed in the records to which the student has waived the right of inspection and review and that are related to the student’s admission, application for employment or job placement, or receipt of honors
• Educational records containing information about more than one student; however, in such cases, the institution will permit access to any part of the record that pertains only to the requesting student.
Waiver of Student Rights
Students may waive any or all of their rights under FERPA. The RGS does not require waivers, and no institutional service shall be denied students who fail to supply waivers. All waivers must be in writing and signed by the student. Students may waive their right to inspect and review either individual documents (e.g., a letter of recommendation) or classes of documents (e.g., an admissions file). The items or documents to which students have waived the right of access shall be used only for the purpose(s) for which they were collected. If used for other purposes, the waivers shall be void and the student may inspect the documents. The student may revoke the waiver in writing, but revocation does not establish the right to inspect and review documents collected while the waiver was in force.
No person outside of RGS shall have access to, nor shall RGS disclose, any personally identifiable information from any student’s educational records without the written consent of the student. Consent must specify the records to be released, the purpose of the disclosure, and the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made. Consent must be signed and dated by the student.
Exceptions to the Consent Policy
RGS reserves the right, as allowed under FERPA, to disclose educational records or components there of, without written consent, to:
• Personnel within RGS who demonstrate a need to know and who act in the student’s educational interest, including faculty, administration, clerical and professional employees, and other persons who manage student records
• Officials of other institutions in which the student seeks to enroll, on the condition that RGS makes a reasonable attempt to inform the student of the disclosure. In most instances, if the student initiated the request to transfer, a permission to transfer educational records is implicit in the request
• Officials of other schools in which the student is currently enrolled
• Persons or organizations providing student financial aid, in order to determine the amount, eligibility or conditions of an award and to enforce the terms of an award
• Accrediting organizations carrying out their functions
• Authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, and state educational authorities, for information necessary for audit and evaluation of federal- or state-sponsored programs
• State and federal officials to whom disclosure is required by state statute adopted prior to November 19, 1974
• Organizations conducting studies to develop, validate and administer predictive tests, to administer student aid programs, or to improve instruction, so long as there is no further external disclosure of personally identifiable information and provided the information is destroyed when it is no longer needed for the project
• Persons in compliance with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena, if reasonable effort is made to notify the student
• Appropriate personnel in a health or safety emergency, so long as there is a serious threat to the student or others, the knowledge of the information is necessary to meet the emergency, time is of the essence, and the persons to whom the information is disclosed are in a position to deal with the emergency
Institutional Records of Disclosure
RGS will keep a written record of all such exceptional disclosures, and the student has the right to inspect such records, which will include the names of the parties or agencies to whom disclosure was made, the legitimate reason for the disclosure, and the date of the disclosure. No record of disclosure shall be required for requests made by students for their own use, for disclosures made with a student’s written consent, for those made to RGS officials, or for those specified as directory information.
Disclosure of Educational Record Information
RGS will obtain written consent from students before disclosing any personally identifiable information from their educational record (with exceptions as noted under Exceptions to Consent Policy). Such written consent for disclosure must specify the records to be released, state the purpose of the disclosure, identify the party or class of parties to whom disclosure may be made, and be signed and dated by the student. All such consents shall be maintained in the student’s educational record.
Challenges to the Content of Educational Records
Students who believe their educational records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading, or that otherwise violates their privacy or other rights, may discuss their concerns informally with the Dean of Students. If the dean agrees with the student’s request, the appropriate records shall be amended and the student shall be notified in writing of the amendment(s). If the dean disagrees, the dean must notify the student within fifteen calendar days that the records will not be amended and that the student has the right to a hearing on the matter.
A request for a formal hearing must be made in writing within thirty calendar days from the mailing of the notice from the dean. Within thirty days of receipt of the written request, the dean shall inform the student of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The student shall be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issue(s) raised. The student may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons, including an attorney (at the student’s expense). The hearing may be conducted by any party, including an official of the RGS, so long as the person does not have a direct interest in its outcome. The panel that adjudicates such challenges is made up of the Dean of Academics, the Vice President, and a faculty member not involved in the challenge. The hearing panel shall base its decision solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. Its decision shall be final and in writing, summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decision. The written report shall be mailed to the student and any other concerned party within fifteen calendar days of the hearing.
If the panel determines that the information at issue is inaccurate or misleading, or violates privacy or other rights, the student’s record shall be amended in accordance with the decision and the student so informed in writing. If the decision is unsatisfactory to the student, a statement or statements commenting on the information in the record or setting forth any reason for disagreeing with the decision may be placed by the student in the educational record. The statement(s) shall be maintained as part of the record and released whenever the record in question is disclosed to an authorized party.
Note: Rights of challenge cannot be used to question substantive educational judgments that are correctly recorded (e.g., course grades with which the student disagrees).
Students who believe that the adjudication of their challenge was unfair, or not in keeping with the provisions of FERPA, may request, in writing, assistance from the President of the RGS to aid them in filing a complaint with the Family Policy and Regulations Office, U.S. Department of Education, Room 1087, 400 Maryland Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202.
Complaints of Institutional Non-Compliance
Students may file complaints in writing concerning an alleged failure of the institution to comply with FERPA with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Avenue S.W., Washington, D.C. 20202-4605.
Destruction of Records
Once a student has requested access to educational records, these records shall not be destroyed until inspection and review have been conducted. The following items shall not be destroyed or removed from the record: (1) explanatory statements placed in the record by the student (see the section on Challenges to the Content of Educational Records, above); and (2) records of disclosure and requests for disclosure. RGS reserves the right to destroy information contained in student records and files when the information on file is no longer valid or useful (e.g., letters of recommendation, once they have been used for their original purpose).