Office of the Registrar

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Definitions of Terms Used in FERPA

Act

Refers to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy act of 1974, as Amended, enacted as Section 438 of the General Education Provisions Act (20 U.S.C. 1232g).

Agent

A person or business formally authorized to act on another's behalf.

Attendance

Includes but is not limited to (a) attendance in person or by correspondence and (b) the period during which a person is working under a work-study (cooperative) program.

Dates of Attendance

The period of time during which a student attends or attended an institution. Examples of dates of attendance include an academic year, a spring semester, or a first quarter. The term does not include specific daily records or a student's attendance pattern at the institution.

Directory Information

Information contained in an education record of a student that generally would not be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed. It includes, but is not limited to, the student's name, address, telephone listing, electronic mail address, photograph, date and place of birth, major field of study, dates of attendance, grade level, enrollment status (e.g., undergraduate or graduate; full-time or part-time), participation in officially recognized activities and sports, weight and height of members of athletic teams, degrees, honors and awards received, and most recent education agency or institution attended. (At USD, directory information includes student's name; USD e-mail address; major field of study; dates of attendance; participation in officially recognized activities and sports; and degrees, honors, and awards received.)

NOTE: Items that can never be identified as directory information include a student's social security number, citizenship, gender, religious preference, grades, and GPA.

Education Institution (or Agency)

Generally means (1) any public or private agency or institution (including governing boards which provide administrative control or direction of a university system) of post-secondary education that (2) receives funds from any federal program under the administrative responsibility of the Secretary of Education. The term refers to the institution as a whole, including all of its components (e.g., schools or departments in a university).

Education Records

Those records directly related to a student and maintained by the institution or by a party acting for the institution.

The term "education records" does not include the following:

  • records of institutional, supervisory, administrative, and certain educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except a substitute who performs on a temporary basis (as defined in the institutional personnel policy) the duties of the individual who made the records.
  • records maintained by a law enforcement unit of the education agency or institution that were created by that law enforcement unit for the purpose of law enforcement.
  • records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution which are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to individuals in their capacity as employees, and are not available for use for any other purpose. (Records of individuals in attendance at an institution who are employed as a result of their status as students are education records, e.g.; work-study, graduate assistants.)
  • records relating to a student (see the definition of "eligible student") which are (1) created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in his or her professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity; (2) used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student; and (3) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment, so long as the records can be personally reviewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice. (Appropriateness may be determined by the institution.) "Treatment" in this context does not include remedial educational activities or activities which are part of the program of instruction at the institution.
  • records of an institution which contain only information relating to a person after that person is not longer a student at the institution (e.g., information gathered on the accomplishments of alumni).

"Eligible Student"

Means a student who has reached 18 years of age or is attending an institution of post-secondary education.

Enrolled Student

The Family Policy Compliance Office has stated that each institution may determine when a student is "in attendance" in accordance with its own enrollment procedures (Federal Register, July 6, 2000, p.41856). At USD, a student is considered "enrolled" when the student has registered and attended his or her first class.

Family Policy Compliance Office

The office within the U.S. Department of Education that is responsible for enforcing/administering the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, as Amended. This office has responsibility for FERPA at all levels of education (K-12, post-secondary).

"Final Results" of a Displinary Proceeding

A decision or determination, made by an honor court or council, committee, commission, or other entity authorized to resolve disciplinary matters within the institution. The disclosure of final results must include only the name of the student, the violation committed, and any sanction imposed by the institution against the student.

Identification and Authentication

An education agency or institution must use reasonable methods to identify and authenticate the identity of parents, students, school officials, and any other parties to whom the agency or institution discloses personally identifiable information. The use of widely available information such as name, date of birth, Social Security number, or student ID number to authenticate identity is not considered reasonable by the Office of Family Policy Compliance. No other guidance as to what are reasonable methods has been provided.

"In Attendance"

When is a student "in attendance"? See "enrolled student."

Institution of Postsecondary Education

An institution that provides education to students beyond the secondary school level. "Secondary school level" means the educational level (not beyond grade 12) at which secondary education is provided.

Law Enforcement Unit

Any individual or other component of an institution, including commissioned police officers and noncommissioned security guards, officially authorized by the institution to enforce any local, state, or federal law and to maintain the physical security and safety of the institution. (Although the unit may perform other non-law enforcement functions, it does not lose its status as a law enforcement unit.)

Law Enforcement Unit Records

Those records, files, documents, and other materials that are (1) created by a law enforcement unit, (2) created for a law enforcement purpose, and (3) maintained by the law enforcement unit. Law enforcement records do not include: (1) records created by a law enforcement unit for a law enforcement purpose other than for the law enforcement unit; (2) records created and maintained by a law enforcement unit exclusively for non-law enforcement purposes, such as a disciplinary action or proceeding conducted by the institution.

Legitimate Educational Interest

Although the Act does not define "legitimate educational interest", it states that institutions must establish their own criteria, according to their own procedures and requirements, for determining when their school officials have a legitimate educational interest in a student's education records. At USD, a school official has a "legitimate educational interest" if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility.

Parent

Includes a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.

Peer Grading of Papers

FPCO has confirmed that peer grading of papers is not a violation of FERPA. It is only after the faculty member collects the graded papers that they become education records.

Personally Identifiable

Data or information which includes, but is not limited to, (1) the name of the student, the student's parent, or other family members; (2) the address of the student or the student's family; (3) a personal identifier such as a social security number or student number; or (4) a list of personal characteristics or other information which would make the student's identity easily traceable.

Plagiarism Detection Services

If the student turns in a paper directly to a plagiarism detection service (which later sends a report to a faculty member), then there are no FERPA concerns as the paper was not an education record at the time that student submitted it to the service.

If the student turns in a paper to a faculty member who then sends it to a plagiarism detection service, then there are FERPA concerns as the paper becomes an education record when the faculty member receives it from the student. In this case, the plagiarism service is considered an outside contractor of USD and the university is responsible for ensuring (typically via contract) that the service abides by the redisclosure provisions of FERPA.

Records

Any information or data recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, audio or video tapes, film, microfilm, microfiche, or any other form of electronic data storage.

School Officials

Those members of an institution who act in the student's educational interest within the limitations of their "need to know." Although the Act does not define "school officials," it states that institutions must establish their own criteria , according to their own procedures and requirements, for determining them. At USD, a "school official" is any person employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position (including law enforcement unit, health staff, and student workers); a person of a company with whom the University has contracted (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; a person assisting another school offical in performing his or her tasks.

Sole Possession Records

Records that are kept in the sole possession of the maker, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.

Student

Any individual who is or has been in attendance at an educational agency or institution for whom the agency or institution maintains education records. The term does not include an individual who has never attended the institution. A student is considered in attendance on the first day of classes of their first term at the university. An individual who is or has been enrolled in one component unit of an institution and who applies for admission to a second unit has no right to inspect the records accumulated by the second unit until enrolled therein.

Student Right-to-Know Act of 1990

Referred to in this publication as SRTK, the act requires colleges and universities to report graduation rates to current and prospective students.

Subpoena

A command from a court to require the person named in the subpoena to appear at a stated time and place to provide testimony or evidence. There are two main types of subpoenas: "duces tecum" (requires the production of documents, papers, or other tangibles) and "ad testificandum" (requires person to testify in a particular court case).

U.S.C.

United States Code. A compilation of all federal legislation organized into 50 titles. Revised every six years with supplementary volumes issued in intervening years. The legislation related to FERPA is found in 20 U.S.C. 1232g (see Appendix I).