What is FERPA?

FERPA stands for "Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act" of 1974, as amended. It is commonly known as FERPA, the privacy act or the buckley amendment. It is a federal law designed to protect the privacy of educational records, to establish the right of students to inspect and review their educational records and to provide guidelines for the correction of inaccurate and misleading data through informal and formal hearings.

FERPA allows release of specified items but does not require it. Items that may be released are called directory information. San Antonio College has classified these items as directory information: student’s name, dates of attendance, major, classification, enrollment status (full-time or part-time), previous institution(s) attended, degree(s) awarded, academic honors/awards.

Students may place a directory hold on any or all of this information by completing the "Requst to Withhold or Remove Hold on Disclosure of Directory Information" form. The form can be accessed, completed and submitted at our Student Forms website. After this information is entered into the system the student's information will be blocked.

Student information may not be released without a signed "FERPA Consent” form from the student. The form can be accessed, completed and submitted at our Student Forms website. Items that can never be identified as directory information are a student’s social security number or institutional identification number, address, telephone number, date of birth, race/ethnicity, citizenship, nationality, gender, grades, grade point average or class schedule.

What is a student educational record?

A student educational record is any record with certain exceptions, maintained by an institution that is directly related to a student or students. This record can contain a student’s name, or students’ name, or information from which an individual student, can be personally (individually) identified. These records include files, documents and materials in whatever medium (handwriting, print, monitor screen, tapes, disks, film, microfilm, microfiche or notes) that contain information directly related to students and from which students can be personally identified.
If ever in doubt whether information may be released, don’t. Please contact the Office of Student Records for assistance at (210) 212-5266 or sac-ar@alamo.edu. They will help you determine if the information is an educational record and/or whether it may be disclosed without written consent. To be safe, always think written consent.

What is legitimate educational interest?

A legitimate educational interest shall mean any authorized interest, or activity undertaken in the name of the college for which access to an educational record is necessary or appropriate to the proper performance of the undertaking. This means if a student is assigned to you for advising, you have a legitimate educational interest and may access his/her records. If a good friend asks you to tell him the grades his daughter has made, don’t. This has two problems. First unless this student is your advisee, you do not have a legitimate educational interest. Second if the student has not filed a FERPA Consent form granting SAC permission to share information with the parent, the parent is not entitled to this information.

Posting of grades by faculty

The public posting of grades either by the student’s name, institutional student identification number, social security number or any portion of the number without the student’s written permission is a violation of FERPA. This includes posting grades to a class/institutional web site and applies to any public posting of grades for students taking distance education courses. Even with names obscured, numeric student identifiers are considered personally identifiable information. The practice of posting grades by social security number, student identification number or any portion of the number violates FERPA. Notification of grades via a postcard violates a student’s privacy.
There is no guarantee of confidentially of sending grades via the internet outside of the Alamo Colleges District system. The institution would be held responsible if an unauthorized third party gained access, in any manner, to a student’s education record through any electronic transmission method. A third party in this definition could be parents or guardians, boyfriend or girlfriend, roommate, etc. Only secure web sites are approved by FERPA for accessing grade information.

Penalties for violating FERPA

The family policy compliance office reviews and investigates complaints of violations of FERPA. The penalty for violating FERPA is loss of all federal funding, including grants and financial aid.

Special “do not” for faculty

To avoid violations of FERPA rules, do not:
  • At any time use the social security number, institutional identification number or any portion of the number of a student in a public posting of grades.
  • Ever link the name of a student with that student’s social security number, institutional identification number in any public manner.
  • Leave graded tests or papers in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the tests or papers of all students.
  • Circulate a printed class list with student name and social security number/institutional identification number or grades as an attendance roster.
  • Discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents/guardians) without the consent of the student.
  • Provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose.
  • Provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than college employees in finding a student on campus.

Question and answer session

The Office of Student Records Director is available to participate in a FERPA question and answer session for any department or college faculty meeting.

Please refer any parent/guardian seeking information on student covered by FERPA, to the Office of Student Records by emailing sac-ar@alamo.edu.