From the President and the Provost
ALMANAC BETWEEN ISSUES: October 29, 1999

On Changes in Parental Notification Procedure

In Almanac on September 28, we presented for comment to the Penn community the report of the University Committee on Changes to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which governs disclosure of certain educational records. The committee, led by Dr. Rick Beeman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, was comprised of faculty, students, and staff. During its deliberations, the committee focused its concern on those changes to FERPA enacted in October 1998 which permit colleges and universities to disclose to parents certain instances in which their son or daughter have violated the school's drug or alcohol policies. The report provided a framework for considering if, how, and when the school should notify parents of these instances.

We appreciate the committee's thoughtfulness and effort on this issue and we also would like to thank the many members of the Penn community who commented on the committee's recommendations. After consultation and careful consideration of the comments we received, we are accepting the proposal of Dean Beeman's committee with minor modifications. In the text below, you will note that the guidelines for notification have been slightly changed and the concept of a "consent to be notified" form, which campus commentators distinctly advised against, has been excluded.

Guidelines for Notification

Any of the following circumstances can trigger notification:

A) The student has had previous, significant drug- or alcohol-related violations

B) The student has committed a violation which was accompanied by other serious misconduct involving personal injury to him- or herself, others, or damage to property

C) The student's violation could result in a separation either from the University or from the College Houses.

Students whose parents are to be notified under these guidelines will be informed before such notification occurs and given an opportunity to initiate contact with their parents.

A revision of the University's Confidentiality Policy, to include these new guidelines, will be published "Of Record" before the end of the semester. The new guidelines are effective as of November 1, 1999.

It should also be noted that the amendments to FERPA also now permit colleges and universities latitude in disclosing to parents information relating to disciplinary matters involving crimes of violence. The Committee on Changes to the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act is reconvening to discuss the complex issues relating to this change in federal law and will give it the same high level of consideration. Once a proposal has been developed, we will again solicit input from the University community and hope that you will give this additional change to FERPA your careful consideration.

--Judith Rodin, President

--Robert Barchi, Provost


Posted 10/29/99

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