Valencia Policy Spotlight: Student Records

student-records-grove

In an effort to support supervisors in effectively leading their teams, this column offers additional guidance, information and resources regarding Valencia’s policies. Each month, Leslie Golden, associate general counsel, showcases one policy and provides an in-depth look at the policy background information, as well as key updates and tips for the practical use and application of the policy.

Featured Policy: Student Records, Policy 6Hx28: 7B-02slice

Effective Date: Originally adopted December 11, 1974

Policy History: Amended December 20, 2005, in its current form

Policy Background:
This policy reflects the requirements of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, a federal law that Valencia is bound to follow. Generally, FERPA requires two things when it comes to student records: (1) Valencia must keep these records private and not disclose them to anyone other than the student to whom they relate, unless that student consents, and (2) Valencia must provide students (or former students) access to records that relate to them. Access to records is usually given through the Registrar’s office.

The definition of an “education record” that must be protected under FERPA is very broad and is not limited to academic records. A FERPA-protected record is any record that (1) personally identifies a student and (2) is maintained by the College. This can include records from non-academic departments and includes records kept in paper or electronic form. Records that meet this definition must generally be protected from disclosure, even to other students and employees. There are some limited exceptions to the non-disclosure rules, but they are very narrow.

Using direct quotes from the policy, explain the essence of the policy:
“Administrators, faculty, staff and student workers shall respect the rights of students and appropriately maintain the confidentiality of student educational records.”

Examples of practical application of the policy:
An employee in the business office receives a request from an outside organization for some financial information on a student. The employee contacts the student and asks him or her to come in and sign a consent form allowing the College to disclose the information to the organization. After receiving the signed consent, the employee gathers the records and leaves them in the open on the service counter while he goes to lunch. Upon his return, his supervisor explains that there has been a potential violation of the student’s FERPA rights, even though a consent was obtained for disclosure outside the College, since any other staff member or student passing by could have seen the confidential records.

Working with the Policy/Practice Tips:

Education records, as defined by FERPA, are NOT public records under Florida’s laws. This is true even for directory information like names, degrees awarded and dates of attendance. Even if someone claims that he or she is entitled to the records because of Florida’s Sunshine Laws, do not disclose the records to anyone other than the student to whom the records relate. When in doubt, ask.

– FERPA and College policy apply to records but not to things employees see or hear outside of a written document. If you see an altercation between two students on campus and are asked to describe what you saw to security, for example, you are not violating the College’s policy.

– Do not assume that someone has a legitimate educational interest in a student’s records just because he or she is employed by Valencia, even if a faculty member. Curiosity is not a valid reason for accessing a student’s records.

For questions regarding this policy, contact Linda Herlocker, assistant vice president, admissions and records, at lherlocker@valenciacollege.edu, or extension 1511, or the Office of the Policy and General Counsel.

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