Confidentiality of Student Records and the Family Educational Rights

Educational records are kept by University offices to facilitate the educational development of students. Faculty and staff members may also keep informal records relating to their functional responsibilities with individual students.

The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974 identifies the rights of students and their families with respect to student educational records kept by institutions. The following information provides operational procedures for certain aspects of these FERPA related policies:

Click here for the FERPA Student Pamphlet. 
Click here for the FERPA Faculty/Staff Pamphlet.

Health or Safety Emergency Provision

 In some situations, a school may determine that it is necessary to disclose non-directory information to appropriate parties in order to address a disaster or other health or safety emergency. FERPA permits school officials to disclose, without consent, education records, or personally identifiable information from education records, to appropriate parties (see Q&A 9) in connection with an emergency, if knowledge of that information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. See 34 CFR §§ 99.31(a)(10) and 99.36. This exception to FERPA’s general consent requirement is temporally limited to the period of the emergency and generally does not allow for a blanket release of personally identifiable information from the student’s education records. 

Under this health or safety emergency provision, an educational agency or institution is responsible for making a determination whether to make a disclosure of personally identifiable information on a case-by-case basis, taking into account the totality of the circumstances pertaining to a threat to the health or safety of the student or others. If the school district or school determines that there is an articulable and significant threat to the health or safety of the student or other individuals and that a party needs personally identifiable information from education records to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals, it may disclose that information to such appropriate party without consent. 34 CFR § 99.36. This is a flexible standard under which the Department defers to school administrators so that they may bring appropriate resources to bear on the situation, provided that there is a rational basis for the educational agency’s or institution’s decisions about the nature of the emergency and the appropriate parties to whom information should be disclosed. We note also that, within a reasonable period of time after a disclosure is made under this exception, an educational agency or institution must record in the student’s education records the articulable and significant threat that formed the basis for the disclosure and the parties to whom information was disclosed. 34 CFR § 99.32(a)(5).

Typically, law enforcement officials, public health officials, trained medical personnel, and parents (including parents of an eligible student) are the types of appropriate parties to whom information may be disclosed under this FERPA exception. In some situations, State and local emergency management agencies who are coordinating a disaster response might be considered appropriate parties weif their knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals. Students who are separated from their families may have serious medical needs. A school could disclose information about the student’s medication or special needs to appropriate officials who are seeking to address those needs.

http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/pdf/ferpa-disaster-guidance.pdf