PRIVACY OF EDUCATION RECORDS
It is the responsibility of everyone at Winthrop University to maintain the privacy of student records. Each fall and spring semester, Winthrop notifies students of their rights under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 as Amended). This federal act gives students certain rights with respect to their education records. View this notification here.
Definition of Student
At Winthrop University, the moment a student (regardless of age) registers for classes, their education records become protected under FERPA.
Definition of an Education Record
Those records (in handwriting, print, film, video, electronic, or other medium) directly related to a student and maintained by the institution or by a party acting for the institution. These records do not include the following:
1. Personal records of instructional, supervisory, administrative, and certain educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker, and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual.
2. Records maintained by Winthrop’s law enforcement office, Campus Police, which were created by this office for the purpose of law enforcement.
3. Records relating to individuals who are employed by the institution, which are made and maintained in the normal course of business, relate exclusively to individuals in their capacity as employees, and are not available for use for any other purpose.
4. Records relating to a student which are...
a) created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional, acting in his/her professional capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity;
b) used solely in connection with providing treatment;
c) not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment, so long as the records can be personally reviewed by a physician or other appropriate people determined by Winthrop University (Treatment in this context does not include remedial educational activities or activities which are part of the program of instruction.).
5. Alumni records which contain information about a student after he or she is no longer in attendance at the University and do not relate to the person as a student
Directory information may be made public unless the student has submitted a written request to the Registrar not to release it. Winthrop designates the following items as Directory Information:
• student name
• e-mail address
• telephone number
• place of birth
• enrollment status (full- or part-time)
• dates of attendance
• date of graduation
• major and minor fields of study
• degrees and awards received
• date of admission
• whether or not currently enrolled
• classification (freshman, etc.)
• most recent previous educational institution attended
• eligibility for honor societies
• participation in officially recognized activities and sports
• weight and height of members of athletic teams
• photographic, video or electronic images of students taken and maintained by the university
Students have the right to ask that directory information not be released to outside parties. To request non-disclosure, students must complete the privacy form and return it to the Office of Records and Registration.
Legitimate Educational Interest
In accordance with FERPA, disclosure of a student’s record without consent may be made in the instances below. However, educational interest does not constitute authority to disclose information to a third party without the student's written permission.
1. To a school official* who has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility at Winthrop. These responsibilities may include:
• performing appropriate tasks that are specified in her or his position description or by a contract agreement;
• performing a task related to a student's education;
• performing a task related to the discipline of a student;
• providing services for the student or the student's family, such as health care, counseling, or financial aid.
*A school official may be:
a) A person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (includes student workers and Graduate Assistants).
b) A person elected or appointed to the Board of Trustees.
c) A person employed by or under contract to the University to perform a special task, such as an attorney or auditor.
2. To officials of another school, upon request, in which a student seeks or intends to enroll.
3. To certain officials of the US Department of Education, the Comptroller General, and state and local educational authorities, in connection with certain state or federally supported education programs.
4. In connection with a student's request for or receipt of financial aid, as necessary to determine the eligibility, amount or conditions of the financial aid, or to enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
5. If required by a state law requiring disclosure that was adopted before November 19, 1974.
6. To organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the University.
7. To accrediting organizations to carry out their functions.
8. To parents of an eligible student who claim the student as a dependent for income tax purposes.
9. To comply with a judicial order or a lawfully issued subpoena. (Contact with the student is attempted before records are sent.)
10. To appropriate parties in a health or safety emergency.
11. To an alleged victim of any crime of violence the results of any institutional disciplinary proceeding against the alleged perpetrator of that crime with respect to that crime.
Without a student’s written consent, Winthrop cannot release a student’s records to parents or guardians, except in one instance: parents or guardians of a student must complete and sign a verification of student status form and file it with the Office of Records and Registration, as well as provide proof that they have claimed the student as a dependent on their last federal income tax return.
Right of the University to Refuse Access
Winthrop reserves the right to refuse to permit a student to inspect the following records:
- Financial statement of the student's parents.
- Letters and statements of recommendation for which the student has waived his or her right of access, or which were placed in his/her file before January 1, 1975.
- Records connected with an application to attend Winthrop if that application was denied.
- Those records which are excluded from the FERPA definition of records.
Refusal to Provide Copies
With an understanding that it cannot deny students access to their records, Winthrop University is required by FERPA to describe the circumstances in which it may deny students a copy of their education records. These two circumstances are:
1. The student has an unpaid financial obligation to the University.
2. There is an unresolved disciplinary action against the student.
Record of Requests for Disclosure
Winthrop will maintain a record of all requests for disclosure of information (that are not made by the student) from a student's education records. The records will indicate the name of the party making the request, the date of the request, and the legitimate interest the party had in requesting or obtaining the information. The records may be reviewed by the parents (under appropriate circumstances) or the eligible student.
In accordance with South Carolina law (Section 30-2-50 of the Family Privacy Protection Act) , the University does not sell or give away lists which are in unpublished or computerized form to any outside agency, individual, or business for commercial solicitation purposes.
Questions concerning Winthrop’s policy for release of academic information should be directed to the Office of Records and Registration, 126 Tillman Hall.
For more information and analysis on policy and legal issues in higher education, visit the Family Policy Compliance Office website.
Special Notes for Faculty
To avoid violations of FERPA rules, DO NOT:
• use any part of the Social Security Number of a student in a public posting of grades;
• link the name of a student with that student's social security number in any public manner;
• leave graded tests in a stack for students to pick up by sorting through the papers of all students;
• circulate a printed class list with student name and social security number/student ID number or grades as an attendance roster;
• discuss the progress of any student with anyone other than the student (including parents) without the consent of the student;
• provide anyone with lists of students enrolled in your classes for any commercial purpose;
• provide anyone with student schedules or assist anyone other than university employees in finding a student on campus.
Letters of Recommendation
Statements made by a person making a recommendation that are made from that person’s personal observation or knowledge do not require a written release from the student. However, if personally identifiable information obtained from a student’s educational record (including employment as a graduate assistant or work-study) is included in the letter of recommendation (grades, GPA, etc.), the writer is required to obtain a signed release from the student which:
1. specifies the records that may be disclosed
2. states the purpose of the disclosure,
3. identifies the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure can be made.
If this letter is kept on file by the person writing the recommendation, it would be part of the student’s education record and the student has the right to read it unless he or she has waived that right to access. Faculty and staff may use the following consent form for these purposes: Consent for Release.
View the FERPA training PowerPoint presented by the Registrar through the TLC (updated 9/8/16)
Nothing in FERPA allows an institution to discuss a student’s educational record publicly – even if a lawsuit has made the information a matter of public record. A school official may not assume that a student’s public discussion of a matter constitutes implied consent for the school official to disclose anything other than directory information in reply. Additionally, university employees should follow university policy regarding the release of information to the media. Media should be referred to the Office of University Relations.