The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) grants students certain rights regarding their Education Records, and requires that the University protect the privacy of Education Records.
A. Student means any person who is attending or has attended the University, including any student who has matriculated.
B. Education Record means any information or data, recorded in any medium, directly related to the student and maintained by the University or a party acting on behalf of the University or a party acting on behalf of the University, with certain exceptions set forth below. An Education Record includes information that, alone or in combination, is linked to a specific student that would allow a reasonable person in the University community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.
C. Directory Information means name, address (including email), photograph, dates of registered attendance, enrollment status, school or division of enrollment, major field of study, nature and dates of degrees and awards received participation in officially recognized activities and sports, and weight and height of members of athletic teams.
D. School Official means:
- Any person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position;
- A person elected to the Board of Trustees;
- A person employed by or under contract to the University to perform a special task, such as an attorney or auditor or outside vendor. Outside vendors may be school officials when there is a specific contract in place with required FERPA language;
- An officer of the Department of Public Safety or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee or who is assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
E. Legitimate Educational Interest: A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official is:
- Performing a task that is specified in his or her position description or contract agreement;
- Performing a task related to a student's education;
- Performing a task related to the discipline of a student;
- Providing a service or benefit relating to the student or student's family, such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid; or
- Maintaining the safety and security of the campus.
III. Exceptions to the Definition of Education Record
- A personal record kept by a faculty or staff member that is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the records, and not accessible or shared with anyone other than a temporary substitute for the maker of the record. (e.g. an annotated seating chart)
- Law enforcement records created solely for law enforcement purposes.
- An employment record of an individual whose employment is not contingent on the fact that he/she is Student.
- Alumni records created after a Student is no longer in attendance and do not relate directly to their attendance as a Student.
- Treatment records of a health care professional if used only for treatment.
- Peer-graded papers.
IV. Student Access to Records
A Student may inspect his/her record upon request, subject to the exceptions below. The University may require the Student to present his/her request in writing and may require appropriate identification. This grants only the right to view the records, and not necessarily to be given a copy of the record. If distance makes it impossible for a student to come to campus and view the record, then a copy will be provided. Access is to be granted as soon as possible, but no later than 45 days from the date of the written request.
A. Exceptions to Student Access
- Documents to which the Student has waived access, such as letters of recommendation.
- Financial data submitted in confidence by the Student's parents.
- An application to another unit of the University where the Student was not accepted or did not matriculate.
- Records containing information on more than one Student. The requesting Student has a right only to see those documents that pertain to his/her Education Records.
V. Student Right to Amend the Record/Request Hearing
A Student may ask that the Education Record be changed or amended if the Student believes the information is not accurate. An academic record may only be amended by the University Registrar or the Vice President for Enrollment Management, in consultation with the respective dean. Similar responsibility is exercised by the Dean of Students in consultation with the Vice President for Student Affairs.
If the request for a change is denied, the Student will be notified and advised of the right to request a hearing to challenge any information believed to be inaccurate, misleading or in violation of the Student's privacy rights. The student has 30 days to file a formal appeal with the Provost and request a hearing, who shall refer the issue to a standing committee or designate a hearing committee, to be comprised of equal Students and faculty, along with an officer of the administration other than the one who denied the request for a change.
The Student will be given notice of date, time and place of the hearing, and will receive a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised. The Student may be assisted by one or more individuals, including an attorney. The University will prepare a written decision based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for the decision. The decision of the hearing committee shall be final, except that administrative recourse to the President of the University always remains open.
If the University decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the Student's right of privacy, it will amend the record and notify the Student, in writing, that the record has been amended. The challenge to be considered in such hearing may extend only to the material in the respective University file; it may extend to the correct recording of a grade but not to the appropriateness of the grade. If the University decides that the challenged information is not inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the Student's right of privacy, it will notify the Student of the right to place in the record a statement commenting on the challenged information and a statement setting forth reasons for disagreeing with the decision. Such a statement shall become a part of the information contained in the Education Record and will be disclosed with it.
VI. Disclosure of Records without Student Consent
The Catholic University of America will disclose information from a Student's education records only with the authorization of the Student, except that the records may be disclosed without consent in the following situations:
A. The disclosure is to School Officials who have a Legitimate Educational Interest in the Education Records. The determination as to whether or not a Legitimate Educational Interest exists is made on a case-by-case basis. When there is any question regarding the request, the employee should withhold disclosure until obtaining consent from the Student, or the concurrence of a supervisor or other appropriate official that the record may be released.
B. To officials of another school, upon request, in which a Student seeks or intends to enroll. The Student shall receive notification of the disclosure unless the student initiated the disclosure.
C. School Officials or lending institutions, in connection with financial aid for which the Student has applied or which the Student has received, if the information is necessary enforce the terms and conditions of the aid or to determine:
- eligibility for the aid;
- the amount of the aid; or
- the conditions for the aid.
D. Parents of a dependent Student, as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. The parent must provide a copy of their most recent federal income tax return establishing the Student's dependency, or the Student may have filled out a form claiming their dependent status. Full rights under the act shall be given to either parent, unless the institution has been provided with evidence that there is a court order, state statute, or legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody that specifically revokes those rights.
The University also has the discretion to disclose to any parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21 information about a violation of any federal state or local law, or any rule or policy of the institution governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the University determines that the Student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to such use or possession.
E. In connection with an emergency, appropriate persons, including parents, if the knowledge of such information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the Student or others.
F. To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena, provided the University makes a reasonable effort to notify the Student of the order or subpoena in advance of compliance. Notification may be prohibited if the University receives a federal grand jury subpoena or any other subpoena which states that the Student should not be notified. The Office of the General Counsel shall be consulted prior to release of the record.
G. To an alleged victim of any crime of violence, the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the University against the alleged perpetrator. The Office of the General Counsel shall be consulted prior to release of the record.
H. The final results of any disciplinary proceedings in which a Student was found to have committed acts that would constitute a crime of violence or statutory rape.
I. Information the University has designated as "Directory Information", unless a hold has been placed upon release of the information by the Student. This is permissive on the part of the University, in other words, there is no requirement that the University disclose directory information. Students may opt to have directory information withheld by filing a request in writing with Enrollment Services.
J. To the court those records that are necessary to defend the University when a student initiates legal action against the University. A transcript of a student's official academic record contains information about his or her academic attainment and status exclusively. Only the Registrar is authorized to issue transcripts or to certify in any way the official academic record of a student. An official transcript request is issued only when requested by the student in writing.
K. 34 CFR § 99.31 lists other less commonly used exceptions to the general rule of no release without permission from the student. Note that medical, counseling and psychological records (treatment records) are only disclosed in accord with District of Columbia law and applicable codes of professional responsibility.