FERPA Employee Training
Current Employee FERPA Traning Course
All employees who access student records must complete the Online FERPA Training every two years. To enroll in this course, please go to Training Tracker in the eWeber portal, then sign up for 190-09 FERPA Online Training. Once enrolled in the training, employees will be invited to join the FERPA Online Training Canvas Course. This course will take about an hour to complete.
FERPA: No Duty to Release Information
Please remember that FERPA never requires the release of student information; instead, FERPA provides circumstances under which student information may be lawfully released to individuals other than the student, not must be released. This means that employees may use their best judgment regarding information requests. Employees are trained to take the time to research a situation before granting a request when they are unsure whether an information release is appropriate. In some circumstances, an employee may determine that a polite deferral is the most appropriate response:
“I do not feel comfortable sharing that information at this time.”
FERPA protects student information from being released without students' permission. There are, however, a few circumstances in which employees may release student information. Directory information is an example of information that may be released according to FERPA.
Directory information is data not normally considered a violation of a person's privacy if publicly available. FERPA allows institutions to determine what is considered directory information at their school. FERPA requires institutions to notify students of what data they consider directory information, and to provide students the option to keep directory information private. Weber State considers the following data to be directory information.
Directory Information at Weber State
- street address
- phone number
- dates of attendance (semester/year)
- degree(s) received
- full-time or part-time status
- honors received
How Directory Information May Be Used
According to FERPA, directory information may be released at employees’ discretion under certain circumstances. FERPA does not require employees to release directory information to a third party.
Weber State employees may at their discretion release directory information in the following cases:
- When release will aid the University in its mission
- When release will benefit students
- When release is to University affiliates and partners
The University will generally not release directory information to marketers or companies seeking to advertise to students. Employees who are unsure as to whether to release directory information or who feel uncomfortable with a request should remember that FERPA allows but does not require release of information. Employees have the right to deny or delay a request according to their discretion.
Students’ Right to Non-Disclosure of Directory Information
While FERPA allows institutions to release students' directory information without their written consent, the law also requires that institutions provide the option for students to request that their directory information not be released.
To have their directory information protected, students must submit a FERPA Non-Disclosure Form, also known as a confidentiality block. Weber employees can direct students to the Non-Disclosure Form seen below.
Disclosure v. Non-Disclosure
Students should carefully consider the decision to put a confidentiality block on their records. Non-disclosure prevents the institution from releasing any directory information on designated students, including to students themselves over the phone. This can make a student's access to their own records more difficult, and can prevent enrollment verifications, reference checks, degree verifications and similar issues that arise with hiring processes, graduate school admissions, scholarship applications and other common situations both during college and after graduation.
Students who choose to invoke their right to non-disclosure of directory information often do so for serious reasons, including for their personal safety, so employees should take care to look for a confidentiality block on each student's record before providing any directory information.
Confidentiality Block Protocol
To protect students' privacy and safety, employees must check a student's record every time they receive a request for directory information. If students have invoked their right to non-disclosure of directory information, a confidentiality block is placed on their student record across WSU systems. The confidentiality block can be found prominently displayed within multiple student information screens across Weber State systems, including Banner, CatTracks, Faculty Dashboard, Advisor Dashboard, and the Unofficial Transcript.
In case of a confidentiality block, employees should disclose no information whatsoever about the student. Employees should not say anything that would even indicate the individual in question is a Weber student.
Incorrect: "There is a confidentiality block on this record."
Correct: "I have no information on that individual."
A confidentiality block prevents Weber State employees from releasing any information over the phone, even to the student who invoked the confidentiality block. If a student has a confidentiality block, employees should communicate only with the student in person after checking a photo ID or through the student's Wildcat email account.
Data Releases between School Officials and Third Parties
Confidentiality blocks do not prevent Weber employees from sharing student data between institutional offices and departments for official purposes. FERPA protects student records but is not meant to stop employees within the university from accessing and processing student records in order to complete their work responsibilities, even when students have exercised their right to non-disclosure through a confidentiality block.
FERPA allows an institution to share non-directory information internally between school officials without students' prior written permission when a legitimate educational interest exists. School officials are individuals employed by the university in an administrative, supervisory, academic, research or support staff position. This category includes law enforcement and health staff personnel; it also includes individuals elected to the Board of Trustees.
Legitimate Educational Interest
School officials may request data from a student record only in cases where there is a legitimate educational interest, meaning the official needs that specific data to fulfill an assigned job duty. To view a record, school officials must be performing a task or service directly related to their required duties as outlined in their employment contract.
Third parties are individuals or organizations outside the University. Employees may only grant information requests from third parties under the following limited circumstances.
- A student has authorized release of information to another party with a written statement specifying which records are to be released and for what reason.
- University officials and University faculty with a legitimate educational interest.
- In response to a legitimate court order and/or subpoena after reasonable effort to notify the student (unless ordered not to contact the student by the Court).
- A victim of violent crime may be told the results of any disciplinary proceedings arising out of the commission of that crime.
Officials of Other Schools
- For admissions and transfer purposes: Officials of other schools in which the student intends to enroll may receive student information upon condition that the student is notified of the transfer, receives a copy of the record if desired and has an opportunity for a hearing to challenge the content of the record.
- For behavior and student code violations: Instructors and other school officials (including at other institutions) with a legitimate educational interest in the behavior of the student may be given appropriate information concerning disciplinary action taken against such student for conduct that posed a significant risk to the safety and well-being of the student, other students or other members of the school community.
Financial Aid Officials
- In response to a student's application for financial aid. Student information to determine the amount of financial aid, the conditions for the aid, the student's eligibility for the aid, or to enforce the terms or conditions of the aid.
- Authorized representatives of the U.S. Department of Education, the Office of the Comptroller General, or state and local education authorities may request access as part of an audit or program review or to ensure compliance with Student Financial Aid program requirements. This also applies to research firms working for said departments.
- An organization conducting studies concerning the administration of student aid programs on behalf of educational agencies or institutions may be given relevant information.
Employees may release student information when it is necessary to address a legitimate emergency that threatens the health or safety of the student or other individuals. These disclosures must be related to an actual, impending or imminent emergency, such as the threat of self-harm, assault, active shooter, terrorist attack, natural disaster or epidemic outbreak.
Unless the student has given their consent to share their information through a third-party release, employees may not release student data to parents, even if those individuals help pay for the student to attend. Grades, attendance, and financial aid information are all considered non-directory information, meaning they cannot be shared without the student’s prior written consent.
If a parent or guardian claimed a student on last year’s federal income taxes, the school may release information to them. The parent or guardian must first provide a copy of the tax documents. After providing the appropriate documentation, parents or guardians may access student information, but they cannot make changes to the student record, including changes to the student’s registration or financial aid.
Employees must document what information was released, to whom it was released and that it was released based on the dependency exception. That document must then become part of the student's official record.