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Is it common practice within colleges/universities to allow all faculty within a division access to all student records within that same division? (i.e., all Health Science faculty having access to all Health Science student records)
Wouldn't this violate FERPA?

  • What is 'FERPA'? – user21984 Oct 16 '14 at 19:37
  • @Omen FERPA – Compass Oct 16 '14 at 19:40
  • Ah okay, it is an American law – user21984 Oct 16 '14 at 19:42
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    @Omen: FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974; it provides privacy protections for student information/records, and contains stipulations regarding the dissemination of such information. – J Anderson Oct 16 '14 at 19:42
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Reading FERPA, this clause states that it is appropriate given certain circumstances.

However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):

  • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
  • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
  • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;

These would be closest to those that matched what you asked.

So if, for example, your HS faculty wanted to average everyone's GPA individually, he could potentially do that, as long as he doesn't post all the names in public.

  • The key phrase here is, "legitimate educational interest." All faculty, across the board, cannot have a, "legitimate educational interest" in each student. – J Anderson Oct 16 '14 at 19:46
  • I have inquired, and was informed this is the way it is set up. – J Anderson Oct 16 '14 at 19:47
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    @JAnderson I'm not saying all faculty do have a legitimate educational interest. I'm saying that those who do, are permitted. If a faculty member wants to do an average GPA for a class, he could potentially look at the names on an Excel sheet (even though IDs is more likely in modern day). – Compass Oct 16 '14 at 19:49
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    @JAnderson: if you are asking whether it is unacceptable under FERPA for professors to "have access" to a student's information, even if they never actually use that access, you would need to consult with a lawyer about that, because the fine details of the particular situation will be very important. – Oswald Veblen Oct 16 '14 at 19:55
  • @JAnderson it may be argued that any professor may be interested in doing statistics on the whole student body, and that could be "legitimate educational interest". If that is enough under the law, consult a lawyer. – Davidmh Oct 16 '14 at 22:45
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FERPA allows for "school officials" to access confidential records when they have a "legitimate educational interest". From the U.S> Deprtment of Education web site:

One of the exceptions to the prior written consent requirement in FERPA allows "school officials," including teachers, within a school to obtain access to personally identifiable information contained in education records provided the school has determined that they have "legitimate educational interest" in the information. Although the term "school official" is not defined in the statute or regulations, this Office generally interprets the term to include parties such as: professors; instructors; administrators; health staff; counselors; attorneys; clerical staff; trustees; members of committees and disciplinary boards; and a contractor, volunteer or other party to whom the school has outsourced institutional services or functions.

So it is not on its face a violation of FERPA for professors to have access to student records.

In practice, many schools impose their own restrictions tighter than FERPA. Sometimes the school describes these restrictions as "FERPA requirements", when they are actually just the (conservative) advice of the school's own lawyers, rather than literal mandates from FERPA.

Due to these local policies, at a particular school, other faculty may not have unrestricted access to a student's grades. You'd have to inquire with a particular institution to find out their internal policies about such things.

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