FERPA and parental access

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FERPA prohibits parent involvement with grades without student permission.
As 5,000 new students flood into BYU this fall, an overwhelming amount of information will be shared with the university and incoming freshmen should understand their rights and protection.

In 1974, U.S. Congress passed the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) to protect students and give them rights in regard to their educational record. Students have the right to access their educational record, to control third party access and to seek to have their records amended.

Jearlene Leishman, FERPA compliance coordinator at BYU, said the biggest concern is for students and parents to understand their rights and protection. Parents have access to information before their son or daughter come to BYU, but once a student is on campus, the education record is limited.

“Parents no longer have access,” Leishman said. “If they try to call university offices, no information will be given from their student’s educational record.”

She said parents can become frustrated because of their connections, such as financially, to their son or daughter. Students can restrict their records or sign a release with each administrative office to grant access to selected individuals.

Leishman said she suggests parents communicate directly with their student if they have questions about their BYU experience.

“Parents need to interact with their student,” Leishman said, “and not try to find out information about the student from BYU.”

Students should understand the basic rights protected by FERPA, Leishman said, because of the accessibility of data.

“Students need to be aware of what information is there, where it is, where it is going and what control you have,” Leishman said.

Professors are not allowed to openly distribute students’ grades in such a way that a third party would be able to view the information. Leishman said an example is common boxes with students’ graded materials. Professors and teaching assistants can only distribute grades this way after student consent is given.

Leishman said directory information is available for others to view, and students can restrict this information if they feel uncomfortable.

Although third parties do not have access to students’ educational records, Leishman said certain campus employees in administrative and advisement offices have limited access for their work.

“It is critical that employees understand FERPA,” Leishman said. “Access is granted only for what they need to know for their job.”

Marjorie Miller, a senior majoring in dietetics, works with many students and parents and must comply with FERPA for her work.

“Parents are happy to know their students are protected,” Miller said. “Offices can provide general information to parents.”

She said in her experience, issues arise when employees do not use their access for an educational need.

“The access can become a tool for curiosity,” Miller said, “and not for a legitimate need to know.”

Miller said she would be disappointed to see any employee not doing the job they committed to do.

Students can call the registrar’s office for questions or concerns about FERPA violations. For specific information about FERPA visit ferpa.byu.edu.

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