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Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act - FERPA | Annual Notice

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords eligible students certain rights with respect to their education records. An "eligible student" under FERPA is a student who is 18 years of age or older or who attends a postsecondary institution at any age. These rights include:

1. The right to inspect and review the student's education records within 45 days after the day Swarthmore College (Swarthmore) receives a request for access. A student should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The school official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the school official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.

2. The right to request the amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.

A student who wishes to ask the school to amend a record should write the school official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed.

If Swarthmore decides not to amend the record as requested, Swarthmore will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing re­garding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.

3. The right to provide written consent before Swarthmore discloses personally identifiable information (PII) from the student's education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.

Swarthmore discloses education records without a student’s prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official typically includes a person employed by Swarthmore in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person serving on the Board of Managers; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee. A school official also may include a volunteer or contractor outside of Swarthmore who performs an institutional service or function for which the school would otherwise use its own employees and who is under the direct control of the school with respect to the use and maintenance of PII from education records, such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent or a student volunteering to assist another school official in performing their tasks. A school official typically has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibilities for Swarthmore.

Upon request, the school also discloses education records without consent to officials of another school in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.

4. The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Swarthmore to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:

                                                               Family Policy Compliance Office
                                                               U.S. Department of Education
                                                                400 Maryland Avenue, SW
                                                                Washington, DC  20202

See the abridged list below of the disclosures that postsecondary institutions may make without consent. For a full list, see § 99.31 of the FERPA regulations.

FERPA permits the disclosure of PII from students’ education records, without consent of the student, if the disclosure meets certain conditions found in § 99.31 of the FERPA regulations. Except for disclosures to school officials, disclosures related to some judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas, disclosures of directory information, disclosures to a party with written consent from the parent or student, and disclosures to the parent in some instances or to the student, § 99.32 of FERPA regulations requires the institution to record the disclosure. Eligible students have a right to inspect and review the record of disclosures. 

A postsecondary institution may disclose PII from the education records without obtaining prior written consent of the student —

  • To other school officials, including teachers, within Swarthmore whom the school has determined to have legitimate educational interests. This includes contractors, consultants, volunteers, or other parties to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions, provided that the conditions listed in § 99.31(a)(1)(i)(B)(1) - (a)(1)(i)(B)(3) are met. (§ 99.31(a)(1))

  • To officials of another school where the student seeks or intends to enroll, or where the student is already enrolled if the disclosure is for purposes related to the student’s enrollment or transfer, subject to the requirements of § 99.34. (§ 99.31(a)(2))

  • To authorized representatives of the U. S. Comptroller General, the U.S. Attorney General, the U.S. Secretary of Education, or State and local educational authorities, such as a State postsecondary authority that is responsible for supervising the College’s State-supported education programs. Disclosures under this provision may be made, subject to the requirements of §99.35, in connection with an audit or evaluation of Federal- or State-supported education programs, or for the enforcement of or compliance with Federal legal requirements that relate to those programs. These entities may make further disclosures of PII to outside entities that are designated by them as their authorized representatives to conduct any audit, evaluation, or enforcement or compliance activity on their behalf. (§§ 99.31(a)(3) and 99.35)

  • In connection with financial aid for which the student has applied or which the student has received, if the information is necessary to determine eligibility for the aid, determine the amount of the aid, determine the conditions of the aid, or enforce the terms and conditions of the aid. (§ 99.31(a)(4))

  • To the parents of a student who is under 18, not in attendance at the College, or who is a dependent student as defined by the Internal Revenue Code.

  • To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, the school, in order to: (a) develop, validate, or administer predictive tests; (b) administer student aid programs; or (c) improve instruction. (§ 99.31(a)(6))

  • To accrediting organizations to carry out their accrediting functions. (§ 99.31(a)(7))

  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. (§ 99.31(a)(9))

  • To appropriate officials in connection with a health or safety emergency, subject to § 99.36. (§ 99.31(a)(10))

  • To a victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or a non-forcible sex offense, subject to the requirements of § 99.39. The disclosure may only include the final results of the disciplinary proceeding with respect to that alleged crime or offense, regardless of the finding. (§ 99.31(a)(13))

  • To the general public, the final results of a disciplinary proceeding, subject to the requirements of § 99.39, if the school determines the student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense and the student has committed a violation of the school’s rules or policies with respect to the allegation made against him or her. (§ 99.31(a)(14))

  • To parents of a student regarding the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the school, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the school determines the student committed a disciplinary violation and the student is under the age of 21. (§99.31(a)(15))

  • Information the school has designated as "directory information" under § 99.37. (§ 99.31(a)(11))

There are two categories of directory information at Swarthmore.

1. Published student “directories” include the following:

  • a campus-network-only photo directory contains a student’s name, photo, class year, and email address;
  • a campus-network-only portal directory contains a student’s name, class year, room number, room phone, and email address; 

  • 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 students, 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.

Students also have the option to file an internal complaint with Swarthmore College. To do so, notify the Registrar of any alleged failures by the College to comply with the Act. In the event that the Registrar is the subject of the complaint, notify the Vice President of Student Affairs of your complaint and the Vice President will appoint a designee to address the complaint. Upon hearing the FERPA complaint, the Registrar or designee will organize a working group to investigate the allegation(s), assess whether modifications or improvements to the College’s FERPA compliance protocols might be appropriate as a result of the complaint, respond to the student normally within ten (10) business days, organize implementation of any change as appropriate, and keep a record of the complaint and the institutional response in accordance with the College’s record retention practices.

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