Student Privacy (FERPA)
The Federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called FERPA or the Buckley Amendment) affords students certain privacy rights regarding their education records. Those rights are summarized below:
FERPA protects the privacy of all education records, in any medium, maintained by the University of Montana Western. Although the law was written in 1974, its coverage is not limited to paper copies. All student education records, including records about students contained in computer databases, are protected. Additionally, Montana law protects students’ right to privacy and is considered more restrictive in its approach to the release of dependent student information to parents.
Generally, only directory information may be released to third parties, including parents of dependent or independent students without the student’s written consent.
Montana State Law
Constitution of Montana — Article II
Section 10. Right of privacy. The right of individual privacy is essential to the well-being of a free society and shall not be infringed without the showing of a compelling state interest.
Montana Code Annotated (MCA)
20-25-511. Student’s right of privacy — legislative intent. It is the legislature’s intent that an institution of the university system of Montana is obligated to respect a student’s right of privacy. This obligation must be observed by establishing procedures to safeguard the institution’s activities that are necessary to protect the health, safety, and privacy of a person’s residence and the privacy of the person’s records. Intrusions by peace officers and other officials exercising responsibility for law enforcement must be governed by standards and procedures no less stringent than those applicable to intrusions on private quarters outside the institutions. A student may not be subjected to discrimination by the use of covert records.
20-25-512. Contracts waiving right to privacy prohibited. A university or college facility may not require a student to sign any contract that would waive the student’s right to privacy and due process of law
20-25-515. Release of student records. A university or college shall release a student’s academic record only when requested by the student or by a subpoena issued by a court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction. A student’s written permission must be obtained before the university or college may release any other kind of record unless such record shall have been subpoenaed by a court or tribunal of competent jurisdiction.
20-25-516. Academic records to be kept separate — student’s right to examine records.
(1) Academic records must be kept separate from disciplinary and all other records. Academic transcripts may contain only information of an academic nature.
(2) A student has the right to examine all written summaries, descriptions, statements, or reports of an academic or disciplinary nature that may have been compiled upon the student
Information that may be released to anyone without the consent of the student, unless the student indicates otherwise, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent:
- Name, campus address, home address, telephone listing, and campus e-mail address.
- State of residence
- Age, date, and place of birth
- Sex and marital status
- Name of advisor
- Name and address of parent(s)
- Major field of study, including the college, division, department, or program in which the student is enrolled
- Classification as a freshman, sophomore, junior, senior, or graduate student, or by a number referring to such cases
- Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
- Weight and height of members of athletic teams
- Dates of attendance and graduation, and degrees received
- The most recent educational institution attended
- Honors and awards received, including selection to a Dean’s list or honorary organization, and the grade point average required to achieve the honor or award
- Photographic, video or electronic images of students taken and maintained by the University
Request for Non-Disclosure/Directory Restrictions
Unless otherwise requested, directory information may be shared without consent. Should a student desire to exclude their information from a directory release they should complete the Withhold Directory Information section of the Change of Student Information form and return it to the Registrar’s Office
Please note information release and directory restriction requests will only be received from the student. Requests received from anyone beside the student will be denied.
Notification of Students’ Rights under FERPA
FERPA affords students certain rights in regards to their educational records. As a summary, these rights include:
- Students have the right to inspect and review their educational records within 45 days of a request to access records. Students should contact the Registrar’s Office to inquire about the process to request access to records.
- Students have the right to request an amendment of their educational record should the student believe information is inaccurate or misleading. Students requesting an amendment should contact the Registrar’s Office for further information.
- Students have the right to decide who is authorized to access their record. Students who desire a third party (i.e. parent, spouse, partner) to have access to their educational records should complete a FERPA Information Release form and return it to the respective office that they desire the third party to access records.
- Students have the right to file a nondisclosure/restriction in writing with the Registrar’s Office, which will prevent their information from appearing in directory information requests.
The right to file a complaint with the US Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the university to comply with FERPA.
Exceptions to the Release of Records
There are two excepts to the release of records.
School Official with Legitimate Educational Interest
A school official is a person employed by the University; a person with whom the University has contracted; a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee or assisting another school official in performing their tasks as assigned or contracted with the University. A school official may access student educational records if they show legitimate educational interest in the requested record, meaning that the official needs to access the education record in order to fulfill their professional responsibility to the student or the University.