FERPA for Faculty & Staff
The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 governs the privacy of student educational records, access to records, and disclosure of them. As a university official, you are expected to understand and comply with FERPA.
Education records are records that are directly related to a student and are maintained by the university or a party acting on behalf of the university. These records include but are not limited to grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, student financial information and student discipline files. The information may be recorded in any way, including, but not limited to, handwriting, print, computer media, videotape, audiotape, film, and email.
Directory Information (Public)
The University of Maine has designated certain information contained in the education records of its students as directory information for purposes of FERPA. Such directory information may be publicly shared by the University unless the student has taken formal action to restrict its release.
Directory information includes:
- Mailing Address
- University email address
- Program of study
- Dates of attendance
- Degrees and awards received (including dates)
- Most recent previous educational institution attended
- Participation in sports and activities
- Class level
- Enrollment status (full-time or part-time)
- Appropriate personal athletic statistical data
Non-Directory Information (Never share)
- Any address other than mailing address
- Social security number
- Date of Birth
- Student ID number
- Grades/exam scores
- Grade point average (GPA)
- Test scores (SAT, GRE, etc.)
- Class schedule
- Gender identity
- Religious affiliation
Letters of Recommendation
Letters of recommendation limited to your own personal observations or assessments of a student do not require consent. Letters including information from a student’s educational record, such as test scores, GPA, and assignment and class grades, require consent. A letter of recommendation release form is available here. Institutions must allow students to inspect letters unless the student has waived the right in writing.
Tips on Managing Student Records
- Post students’ grades using any part of their social security number or MaineStreet ID.
- Leave papers, graded exam books, or lab reports containing student names and grades in publicly accessible places. Students are not to have access to the scores and grades of others in their class.
- Request information from the education record custodian without a legitimate educational interest and appropriate authority to do so.
- Give students access to email threads (via copy, forward, or prints) containing any items of non-directory information about one or more other students. Best practice is to send stand-alone, student-specific emails to share information, rather than sharing existing threads that may contain FERPA-protected information.
- Share education record information, including specific class schedules, grades, or grade point averages, with other faculty or staff members of the university unless their official responsibilities identify their “legitimate educational interest” in that information for that student.
- Release GPA information for any reason (i.e. academic reference). This information is non-directory and cannot be released to anyone without a signed release from the student.
- Check for a FERPA indicator and for the Student Information Release in MaineStreet before discussing a student’s record or releasing any information about the student.
- Keep only those individual student records necessary for the fulfillment of your teaching and advising responsibilities.
- Keep any personal professional records relating to individual students separate from their educational records. Private records of instructional, supervisory, and administrative personnel and ancillary education personnel are to be kept in the sole possession of the maker and are not to be accessible or revealed to any other person, except a substitute.
- Change factual information regarding grades and performance in an education record when the student is able to provide valid documentation that the information is inaccurate or misleading. The substantive judgment of a faculty member about a student’s work, expressed in grades and/or evaluations, is not within the purview of students’ right to challenge their education records.
- Contact the Office of Student Records for guidance and when in doubt, err on the side of caution.
FERPA recognizes the need to balance privacy and safety. In an emergency, the law permits school officials to disclose information without student consent to protect the health or safety of the student or others. The exception is limited to the period of the emergency and generally does not allow for a blanket release of personally identifiable information. In the event of an imminent emergency, contact the UMaine Police Department at 207.581.4040. If you are concerned about the welfare or behavior of a student, contact the Dean of Students Office at 207.581.1406.
How Students Share Information
The Student Consent to Release Information Form allows students to grant access to their educational records to specified individuals. This access is permanent and remains in effect until the student revokes permission in writing. Once the Office of Student Records receives the completed form, the information will be documented in MaineStreet.
How Students Restrict Information
Students have the option to restrict the release of all directory information or just their address. This is referred to as a “FERPA block”. These privacy settings are controlled by the student and managed in the Student Center in MaineStreet. The FERPA block prevents release of personal information to anyone including, but not limited to, lists provided to third-party requesters under the Freedom of Access Act (FOAA), and publications such as Dean’s List and the Commencement program.