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University administrators have a great deal of control over the disciplinary process. They have the power to bring charges against any attending student or employee of the school. Often times, violations do not even need to be spelled out in the code of conduct for administrators to initiate disciplinary action.
Fortunately, your university likely cannot tell your parents about your disciplinary violation without your consent. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), it is the student’s right to control who sees their educational records. However, some universities have established exceptions that allow parents to access these records under specific circumstances. It is important to review your school’s FERPA policy to understand how your case will be handled.
Get help from our college student misconduct and disciplinary hearing attorneys at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin by calling (814) 826-3586 for a free review of your case.
FERPA Protects Students’ Disciplinary Records from Being Released to Their Parents
FERPA is a federal law that protects the privacy of college students’ education records. This law applies to every school that is awarded funds as part of programs governed by the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA establishes that, when students reach the university level, it becomes their right to control who sees their educational information, as opposed to their parents. Accordingly, in most cases, parental access to a student’s disciplinary records will require the student’s written permission.
Still, many parents become concerned about disciplinary records that students need not share without written consent. When parents want information that their children do not wish to give up, legal fights can ensue.
Different Colleges May Establish Unique FERPA Policies
Each college is required to issue an annual notice that outlines their FERPA policy on disclosing students’ educational records. This notice is sometimes referred to as the “annual FERPA notice” or the “annual privacy notice.” Typically, these policies will be posted onto colleges’ websites.
For many, these privacy notices go unread. However, they are important because they provide information regarding when colleges may release information without students’ consent. For example, some colleges proclaim that parents may have access to records of financially dependent students unless the students specifically forbid it. Meanwhile, other universities will not allow for disclosure of any confidential records regardless of students’ age or financial status. If you are concerned that your parents may become aware of your disciplinary violation, you must review your school’s specific FERPA policy in order to understand how your case will be handled.
What Other Educational Records Cannot Be Released Without Your Consent?
There is a wide range of information contained in your educational records that is protected by FERPA. For instance, information pertaining to your academic performance such as your grade point average, class schedule, and exam scores may not be released without your consent. Furthermore, personal information such as your Social Security number, gender, and religious affiliation is also protected.
Furthermore, some student experiences will not be considered part of their educational records. For instance, if you underwent treatment at a campus counseling center, then the clinician’s notes will not be considered part of your educational record and will remain private. However, if it is determined that you may pose a safety risk to yourself or others, then your parents may be informed.
Still, if you are concerned that your educational records may be released to your parents, you should remember to check your school’s FERPA policy for exceptions to these rules. Some universities allow parents to access student records under specific circumstances, such as when their children are financially dependent.
Is There Information that Your University Can Share with Your Parents Without Your Consent?
Under FERPA, schools may disclose “directory” information without students’ consent. Directory information includes information that colleges consider harmless, like names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, honors, and awards.
However, students have the right to opt out of sharing this information. You school must inform you about their ability to share directory information so that you have the opportunity to seal this information if you want to. Typically, these rights will be outlined by schools’ annual FERPA notices.
Other Parties May Access Your Educational Records Without Your Consent
While your parents likely cannot access your educational records without your consent, there are certain parties who can. For example, FERPA allows for your records to be disclosed to other schools where you may be transferring, to organizations conducting studies on behalf of your school, and to school officials with a legitimate educational interest. Furthermore, your records may be released to comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena. You can review your school’s specific FERPA policy to uncover the full range of parties who may have access to your educational records.
Steps to Take to Avoid Conflict with Your Parents Regarding Disclosure of Your Educational Records
Before enrolling in school, you should think about what information you wish to share with your parents. If you wish to share all of your information with your parents, you should fill out and sign a written consent form that grants broad access to your educational records. If you wish to share certain pieces of information but protect others, then these parameters should be specifically outlined in your written consent form.
Some college officials may choose not to disclose certain information even when they have the power to do so. It is important to remember that colleges do not necessarily want to go running to your parents every time you get into trouble. The first step to take after receiving a disciplinary violation should involve talking with your university officials about your violation and the potential consequences you face.
Students Facing Disciplinary Action Can Call Our Attorneys for Help with Their Cases
Seek support from our experienced college student misconduct and disciplinary hearing lawyers at The Law Office of Andrew Shubin by dialing (814) 826-3586 today.