A student was subject to a clear Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violation by a professor. Does student have any rights against the professor? How should they proceed when they are the victim of a FERPA violation?

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    – Wrzlprmft
    May 13, 2019 at 6:01
  • Under FERPA, your complaint is against the university, not against the professor. Action against the professor, if any, will be taken by the university.
    – GEdgar
    May 13, 2019 at 12:17

2 Answers 2


In the US, you have the right to file a FERPA complaint. The instructions are posted on the Government website. If the Government decides that there was a FERPA violation, there are two possible outcomes:

  • They agree that the university will bring itself into compliance, or
  • They do not agree that the university will bring itself into compliance, and therefore, the university will lose their eligibility for federal funding.

The latter of these is an existential threat to the university; therefore, the first one is almost certain to happen. However, the university could discipline the professor as a way to demonstrate that they take being in compliance seriously.

Beyond this, I think the key question for you is what is your goal?

  • Students do not have the right to sue over FERPA violations, so a financial or other settlement for the student is highly unlikely.
  • If you want some specific action (e.g., being allowed to complete your degree without interacting with this professor), you should request this through the usual channels (start with the department chair, then the dean). You could mention that you believe this is a FERPA violation, but I would avoid making threats.
  • If you're just angry and want "justice," you could also complain to a dean, department chair, or even ombudsman, or could submit the FERPA complaint. It's hard for students to prevail against professors, however, particularly if this is the first complaint.

Such actions are a violation of ethics and maybe of law in the US. But it is the student that must seek redress. The university should have an office in which to discuss such things and to which a student can make a complaint. Encourage the student to explore such avenues. The individual should think about what would be fair redress. I would probably expect a public apology, though have doubts about whether it could be arranged.

Department heads and Deans can also be informed, but such things should be done in person, not by email.

Other, more public and radical, options exist, but it is probably best to explore the official ones first and to be aware of the potential negative blow-back consequences of making public claims even when it is warranted.

Such behavior doesn't belong in academia, of course.


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