Tuesday, September 24, 2013 - Almanac Vol. 60, No. 6
What Basic Rules Protect Student Information at Penn? (September 2013)
For starters, it's important to know about FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. FERPA is a federal law that provides certain rights to students and imposes certain obligations on University faculty and staff - all regarding the privacy of "education records", or student record information.
At Penn, FERPA's requirements are incorporated in our Policy on the Confidentiality of Student Records, which can be viewed at www.upenn.edu/almanac/volumes/v56/n25/confidentiality.html
The policy states that in general, University faculty and staff may not disclose personally identifiable information from a student's records except with the student's written consent. One common exception allows for sharing with school officials with "legitimate educational interests" - in other words, where the information would be helpful in the performance of official duties. This very important provision allows Penn faculty and staff to access the student information they need to perform their jobs.
In general, you may not share student records with parents or guardians. There are some exceptions though, including when there is a health or safety emergency, in which case you must work with VPUL and your Dean's office before contacting a parent. You may also share with parents or guardians if the student has provided consent. Consult the Student Records System (SRS) or Advisor in Touch to determine if a student has consented to sharing his or her information with parents or others. You can also ask students to set their privacy choices electronically in the Penn Portal or via a paper consent form.
Visit the Penn Privacy website (www.upenn.edu/privacy) FERPA page and check out the 'Frequently Asked Questions' resource and more. Questions about student privacy can be addressed to firstname.lastname@example.org