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FERPA Information for Staff

Many of the commonly asked questions concerning FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) are listed below. Visit the FERPA glossary for definition of italicized terms. For additional questions, contact One-Stop Student Services.

 

  • What are my responsibilities regarding student records?

    All university employees are considered school officials and are required by law to maintain the confidentiality of student records. Any employee who maintains specific records is considered a record custodian. At the University of North Florida, the University Registrar is the records custodian for academic records.

    The release of any non-directory information about a student to any person outside the university community, with specific exceptions, or to any university personnel without a legitimate educational interest violates federal and state law, as well as university regulations.

  • What can be disclosed without a student's consent?

    In certain instances, the law does not require the university to obtain student consent before disclosing information from an academic record. The most common examples of disclosure that do not require your consent include:

    • Disclosures to school officials with a legitimate educational interest
    • Disclosures to other institutions where student is enrolled or is seeking to enroll
    • Disclosures in connection with the receipt of financial aid (validating eligibility)
    • Disclosures to state/local officials in conjunction with legislative requirements
    • Disclosures to organizations conducting studies to improve instruction, or to accrediting organizations
    • Disclosures in compliance with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena (UNF will make a reasonable attempt to notify students of disclosures to their parents or disclosures in response to a subpoena.)
    • Disclosures for a health/safety emergency
    • Disclosures of information from disciplinary proceedings to the alleged victims of violent crimes or sexual offenses
    • Disclosures of name, sanction, and outcome of disciplinary proceedings (public information), when a student has been found in violation of a crime of violence
  • Can parents access their son or daughter's academic record?

    When a student reaches 18 years of age or applies to a post-secondary institution such as the University of North Florida, the rights afforded to the parents of a student automatically transfer to the student. However, parents may have access to the academic record if:

    • the student provides access to certain areas of his/her student account through the Parent Portal.
    • the information requested is directory information and the student has not selected non-disclosure.
    • the information is released in response to a lawful subpoena.

    The university is required to keep a record of each request for access to and disclosure from student records.

  • What are the consequences for violating FERPA?

    Under federal law, FERPA violations may result in the loss of federal funding for UNF. Under state law, both UNF and you personally may be sued. Any breach of confidentiality could lead to disciplinary action, including the possibility of termination of employment.

  • Must I formally acknowledge that I understand FERPA?

    All Enrollment Services employees must sign the Confidentiality of Student Records statement. This document explains that student records may only be disclosed to or discussed with individuals with legitimate educational interest. After signing this statement, it becomes part of the employee's file.

    All UNF offices should consider developing a procedure for handling confidential student records and ensuring that all staff are educated in these procedures. In addition, we strongly encourage you to require staff to acknowledge their understanding of such protocol in writing.

  • What should I do if I receive a call about a student with a confidentiality hold?

    If a caller requests information about a student who has a confidentiality hold, you cannot provide any information about that student; in fact, you cannot even acknowledge that the individual is a UNF student. Any student who has placed a privacy hold on their record must conduct all business in person after presenting photo identification. A staff member may communicate with a student via the UNF email account if non-disclosure has been requested, but confidential disclosures should be kept to a minimum as part of general email protocol. If there is any question regarding whether or not specific information can, or should, be provided, always err on the side of caution and consult your supervisor.

  • Do student employees have to maintain the confidentiality of student records?

    Student employees have the same obligations to maintain the confidentiality of student records as any other employee. Enrollment Services student employees are required to sign the Confidentiality of Student Records statement before they can access student records. Student employees receive FERPA training in their student employee handbook and from their supervisors. When working with student records, a student assistant should work cooperatively with the supervisor to ensure FERPA compliance. It is always best for students to ask questions and err on the side of caution when dealing with the release of any information.

    All UNF offices who hire student assistants should consider developing a procedure for handling confidential student records and ensuring that all staff are educated in these procedures. In addition, we strongly encourage you to require student staff to acknowledge their understanding of such protocol in writing.

  • What standard security practices must I follow?

    All staff must utilize reasonable measures to preserve the confidentiality, security, and integrity of University of North Florida information systems and the information contained therein. All UNF staff should practice appropriate security measures:

    • Never disclose, share, or loan your username(s) and password(s) to anyone (e.g., another employee, faculty member, supervisor, student assistant, etc.)
    • Never use generic/group IDs when accessing confidential academic record information.
    • Ensure that remote access to and retrieval and transmission of confidential academic record information is accomplished through a secure and encrypted connection.

    In addition, staff should take reasonable measures to restrict unauthorized persons from viewing confidential academic record information. For example, you should:

    • Never leave your computer workstation unattended while signed on without appropriate screen locking (e.g., a password-protected screen saver).
    • Never leave personal logon information (e.g., username, password, network mapping, etc.) in view of unauthorized persons.
    • Never program (or "hot-key") automatic access to confidential academic record systems.
  • Are electronic records and data protected by FERPA?

    FERPA protects the privacy of all education records, regardless of the medium in which those records are maintained.

    The increasing use of computerized record-keeping systems, and the resulting replacement of paper documents with electronic data, is likely to increase the volume of electronic education records. Therefore, it is important to remember that the same principles of confidentiality apply to paper records and to electronic data.

  • How should I handle a subpoena?
    Please contact the Office of the General Counsel for advice on how to proceed with handling a subpoena. UNF General Counsel is located in J.J. Daniel Hall, Building 1, Room 2100. The phone number is (904) 620-2828.
  • How should I handle a power of attorney?
    If all legal requirements are met, the individual (often a parent) listed on the power of attorney will be treated in the same manner as would the student. For access to academic records, One-Stop Student Services requires a notarized power of attorney that specifically authorizes access to academic records or is a general power of attorney that covers any and all documents. If you have any questions about evaluating a Power of Attorney, please contact the Office of the General Counsel, located in J.J. Daniel Hall, Building 1, Room 2100. The phone number is (904) 620-2828.
  • How should I handle a media request?

    If you are contacted by or are working with the news media, you should seek the assistance of Media Relations.

  • How should I handle information requests for research studies and surveys?
    UNF often receives requests for student information to include in studies. If you receive such a request, refer the requestor to the Office of Institutional Research.
  • What information can I provide to military recruiters?

    The Solomon Amendment is a federal law that governs the type of student data (defined as recruitment information) that may be released to military recruiters without student consent. Under this law, the following has been designated as recruitment information: student name, addresses, email address provided by the institution, telephone numbers, date and place of birth, level of education, academic major, degrees received, and the most recent previous educational institution attended. 

    No other information should be released to a military recruiter without the student's written permission. In addition, no information, including recruitment information, should be released about a student who has a privacy hold on his or her record. 

    The Solomon Amendment provides a significant exception to FERPA, which typically would prohibit non-consensual release of student data not previously designated as directory information, such as date and place of birth. Under the Solomon Amendment, the university must comply with requests from military recruiters for student recruitment information, even if that information has not been designated directory information under FERPA. Please note, however, that the university is required to respond to requests to each branch of the armed services only once a term. For questions regarding requests for release of student information to military recruiters, please contact the University Registrar.

  • Should I add anything to my email signature about student confidentiality?

    It is recommended for faculty and staff to add this confidentiality statement to their email signature:

    CONFIDENTIALITY NOTICE: This electronic mail transmission and any documents accompanying it may contain confidential information, protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. Please protect the privacy of this information and do not forward this email. If you have received this transmission in error, please immediately notify the sender to arrange for the return of the message and any attached documents.

  • What are the guidelines regarding communicating with faculty, staff, and students via their personal email addresses rather than UNF email addresses?

    Communicating with faculty, staff, and students via personal email addresses is strongly discouraged although not prohibited. For security and accountability purposes, it is recommended that someone communicate via email with others using UNF email addresses only. Staff may communicate with students who have requested non-disclosure only if the UNF email address is used. The staff member should always err on the side of caution and may opt to not provide information via email if s/he believes the information should not be released via that method and that the student should come into the office instead.

  • Privacy Holds

    Example: A student who has a privacy hold calls and wishes to speak with you about his record. Can you discuss his record over the phone?

    Answer: A student with a privacy hold must conduct all business in person after presenting photo identification.

  • Directory vs Non-Directory Information

    Example: You receive a call from parents who inform you that they have been paying for their son to attend UNF every term for the last three years. They are concerned because they don’t hear much from him about school. They tell you that they suspect their son may no longer be enrolled. You look up his record and learn that he was dismissed more than a year ago. How do you respond to the parents?

    Answer: As a general rule, the University must obtain the student's written consent before releasing information that is a part of his education record. However, there is an exception for directory information, which can be released to third parties without the student's consent. Because dates of attendance are considered directory information, you can release the student's dates of attendance; however, you cannot disclose that he was dismissed from the university since that information is non-directory information and, therefore, confidential. If the parents want additional information, you must explain that you can release directory information only.

  • Admission Decision

    Example: Your neighbor's daughter has not received word on her admission to UNF. As a personal favor, your neighbor asks you to look up her admissions status in the student records system. Is this appropriate?

    Answer: No. You can access only those academic records for which you have a legitimate educational interest during the performance of your official university duties. You should never access confidential information for personal reasons; doing so can put your employment at risk.

  • Academic Records

    Example: Mr. and Mrs. Smith have just enrolled their 17-year-old son, Tom, as a full-time student at UNF. Without his knowledge, Mr. and Mrs. Smith contact One-Stop Student Services and demand to see Tom's academic record. Should One-Stop Student Services disclose these records to his parents?

    Answer: No. FERPA protects the records of students attending the university. Even though Tom is a minor, only Tom, not his parents, has the right to inspect and review his academic record.

  • Family Emergencies

    Example: You get a frantic phone call from an individual who says that he is a student's father and must get in touch with her immediately because of a family emergency. Can you tell him when and where her next class is?

    Answer: No. Student schedules are not directory information at UNF. If he needs to reach the student right away, refer him to the University Police Department or One-Stop Student Services and they will contact the student if deemed necessary.

  • Lawyer Requesting Information

    Example: Laura Lawyer calls you to request information about a student for a case. Should you answer her questions? 

    Answer: No. You should not disclose confidential information to anyone without the student's consent. You should refer this call to the Office of the General Counsel.