Student Records and Parental Notification

Privacy of Information

The Buckley Amendment, also called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, and related federal regulations establish guidelines protecting the privacy of student records. College students have the right to review their educational records and request that the records be amended if the student believes that the records are inaccurate or misleading.

A student’s access to a document may be limited to the extent permitted by law, including when he or she has signed a written waiver involving particular documents, such as letters of recommendation.

Under College policy, parents normally are not permitted access to their student’s records. FERPA also provides limitations on parents’ access to student records; however, FERPA permits the College to provide access to educational records to parents in certain circumstances, including to the parents of dependent students, as defined by the Internal Revenue Code. Under College policy, grades will only be released to parents when students submit a signed request to the registrar.

Swarthmore College’s complete statement on the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is available in the Student Handbook.

Parental Notification Policy

It is the College’s general policy to treat the student as the person primarily privileged to authorize release of personal information. This policy reflects our philosophy that an important goal of undergraduate education is to continue the student’s development as an autonomous adult. The College encourages students to share information with their parents or legal guardians, but ultimately the decision of what information to share normally rests with the student. Hence, the vast majority of communications are directed to the student rather than to the parents/guardians. For example, grades are sent only to the student, unless the student gives written authorization to the registrar to send grades to a parent or guardian.

We recognize, however, that this commitment to fostering the development of the student must be balanced with the parents’ interest in the well-being and progress of their student in the College, and we recognize that there are times in which parental involvement can be in everyone’s best interests. Thus, while the general policy is to be protective of the student’s privacy, there are instances, including those enumerated below, in which a parent or legal guardian will be notified of matters concerning a student. In such instances, we believe it is appropriate for the student to inform her/his parent or guardian directly, so whenever reasonable, we will allow time for students themselves to do so. However, in situations where prompt notification is prudent, a member of the dean’s staff will contact a parent or guardian as soon as possible.

1. Change of status imposed by the College

A change in the status of a student at the College may be imposed as a result of disciplinary action
 or unsatisfactory academic progress. To the extent permitted by law (including situations where the student is a dependent, where the student is under 21 years old and found to have violated a law, rule or policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance, or where the student is found in a disciplinary proceeding to have committed a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense), if a student is placed on probation, suspended, required to withdraw, or expelled, parents are notified. It should be noted that less severe instances of disciplinary or academic action may result in warnings to the student, of which parents are normally not notified.

2. Health and Safety Emergencies, Including Transports to a Hospital in Critical Situations and Unexplained Absences From Campus

The College reserves the right to contact parents when it reasonably believes that the student is subject to a health or safety emergency. This includes, but is not limited to, situations in which a student needs to be transported to the hospital in a critical situation. It also includes situations in which it comes to the attention of College officials that a student is inexplicably absent from campus for a prolonged period. College officials may contact a parent or guardian in order to ascertain the whereabouts of the student. However, normally, College officials will first try to contact the student’s confidential contact of record to locate the student. Students are responsible for identifying their confidential contact in their online student record. The College is not responsible for a student’s failure to be in touch with her/his parents.

3. Arrests

Arrest information is public information and is not considered an educational record of a student. The parent or guardian of the student may be notified if the student is placed under arrest while on College property or during a College sanctioned event/activity and detained by law enforcement officials. Note that the College does not post bail for arrested students. If a student receives a citation for a summary offense for which they are not detained, e.g., underage drinking or disorderly conduct, the College normally will not notify the parent or guardian, but the police might choose to do so themselves.

4. Disclosures for Other Reasons in Exercise of College’s Judgment

The College reserves the right to notify a parent or guardian of a dependent student, or as otherwise permitted by law, for reasons other than those listed above, based on our judgment of what is in the best interests of the student and of the College. For example, individual deans may contact parents of dependent students when their student is failing to make satisfactory academic progress or when alcohol or other illegal substances are involved.