Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - FERPA
The Buckley Amendment, also called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), and related federal regulations establish guidelines protecting the privacy of student records and give a college student the right (subject to certain exceptions) to review her/his “educational records,” and, within forty-five (45) days of formally requesting to do so, to challenge and/or seek to amend the contents if she/he believes the records are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights. FERPA also gives students the right to consent to the disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in the student’s education records, except to the extent that the law authorizes disclosure without consent. FERPA provides students the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the act. Written complaints should be directed to the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 600 Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., 20202-4605.
The procedure to inspect and review records, or to request amendment of education records is the same: students should write and sign a letter clearly stating their request and submit the letter to the dean of students.
Grades are available online to students through a password-protected website. They are not routinely sent to parents or guardians, except that parents or guardians of students are normally informed of grades in cases of important changes of status, such as probation and requirement to withdraw. However, grades may be released when students request it. Swarthmore has traditionally been very open with students relative to the content of their records, but has followed a conservative policy regarding disclosure of personally identifiable information to outside persons or organizations.
Education records may be disclosed to school officials without prior written consent of the student. School officials include persons employed by the College in administrative, supervisory, academic, or research, or support staff positions; persons serving on College governing bodies; or persons employed by or under contract to the College to perform special tasks, such as attorneys, insurers, and auditors. A school official is determined to have legitimate educational interest if the information requested is necessary to perform tasks appropriate to her/his position or contract agreement, perform tasks related to the student’s education, perform tasks related to the discipline of a student, or provide a service such as health care, counseling, institutional research, job placement, or financial aid.
The College will release information in education records, including disciplinary actions or unsatisfactory academic progress records (generally probations, suspensions, or expulsions), to educational institutions to which the student seeks or intends to enroll or is already enrolled, for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer including medical and law schools.
Except as stated above, personal information, other than “directory information” or matters of public record, is not normally released to anyone outside the College without a student’s prior consent unless otherwise permitted or required by law.
There are two categories of directory information at Swarthmore.
1. Published student “directories” include the following:
- a directory for the College community of enrolled students listing home addresses;
- the telephone directory, available as a download, contains a student’s name, class year, campus address, and campus telephone extension. The names, addresses, phone numbers, and class years of off-campus students also appear in the telephone directory;
- a publicly posted list of all students participating in the housing lottery;
- each spring semester, the year’s expected degree candidates are posted on a list outside the Registrar’s Office;
- the commencement program listing the Bachelor of Arts candidates, the Bachelor of Science candidates, honors by level, Phi Beta Kappa, Sigma Xi, Tau Beta Pi, fellowships and prizes, and Pennsylvania Teacher Certification.
2. Other “directory (public) information” includes the following: home address, phone numbers, email address, date and place of birth, photographs, major(s), minor(s), dates of enrollment at Swarthmore, date of graduation or anticipated graduation, degree and honors or awards received, and participation in extracurricular activities including sports, and other similar information. Weight and height of athletic teams are also considered matters of public record.
According to the law and Swarthmore College policy, any item of directory information may be released at any time unless the student has filed a written request that specific directory information not be released, although normally most directory information is not released outside the College community without the student’s request. Students have the right to request that directory information be withheld from disclosure, except as otherwise provided by law. Students who wish to have certain directory items withheld from any release should file their request with the Registrar’s Office, where questions concerning the College policy or this notice should also be directed. Students may file this request at any time, and the Registrar’s Office will work to place this restriction on the student’s record within two (2) weeks time.