The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is legislation governing student records. All Duke faculty and staff are obligated to comply with this act.

FERPA affords students three rights:

  1. the right to inspect their education records
  2. the right to limit the disclosure of their records
  3. the right to seek correction to their records.

The first two aspects being most related to faculty and staff roles on campus. Faculty and staff are encouraged to view a short FERPA tutorial found in the Duke LMS. After logging into the Duke LMS, type "FERPA"under the Catalog Search function. The result will provide the link to the tutorial. Learners self-register for the tutorial. Completion will be noted in the learning profile, but nothing more than completion (i.e., no quiz score).

Other ways to learn about FERPA:

More information about FERPA and the student records policy at Duke can be found here.

Grades can never be directory (public) information, and it is inappropriate to post grades in a public setting. An instructor may post grades if the grades are posted in such a manner that only the instructor and the individual student can identify his/her grades. The instructor and student can determine a code to use that only the instructor and student know. It should not include any portion of the student’s social security number or ID numbers. The listing of codes and grades should be in a random order and not be in class roster or alphabetical order.

An instructor wanting to send students grade information should send the grades via the university’s email system, i.e. to a Duke university email address, from his or her Duke university email address.

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and FERPA are both privacy laws, but they are very different in scope. HIPPA covers the privacy of health records and other health information. FERPA covers education records, in Duke’s case, at a postsecondary institution.

Entities on the University campus providing treatment to students follow FERPA.


Education Record

The term education record is broadly defined as those records that are (1) directly related to a student and (2) are maintained by an educational agency or institution or party acting for the agency.

Treatment Record

Treatment records are records on a student which are made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other professional acting in his/her professional capacity and which are made, maintained, or used only in the connection with the provision of treatment to the student and are not available to any other persons except those providing treatment.

When a student attends a postsecondary institution, regardless of age, FERPA rights transfer to the student. Parents become a third party. Like any other third party, parents may obtain information designated by the institution as directory information at the institution’s discretion. Any other student information will not be released to parents without the student’s consent. (An exception would be in the case of an emergency or safety situation or the underage student has been found in violation of a substance abuse law or violation.)


Directory Information

Information contained in an education record of a student “that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.” Each institutions designates what it considers to be directory information for its students. At Duke, directory information is as follows:

  • Name(s)
  • Addresses
  • Duke Unique ID
  • Telephone listing(s)
  • Email addresses
  • Place of birth
  • Birth year
  • Photograph(s)
  • Major fields of study
  • Participation in officially recognized activities and sports
  • Weight and height of members of athletic teams
  • Dates of attendance
  • Enrollment status (full/part time)
  • Degrees and awards received
  • Most recent previous educational institution attended

Students often ask for reference letters for job or graduate school applications. Faculty are free to share information that is designated as directory information or opinions and observations. If faculty want to include information that is not directory information, such as grades or GPA, the students written permission should be obtained prior to writing the reference letter. This authorization should be permanently maintained.

Class roster information that is displayed in learning management systems, such as Sakai, is ok to be displayed as students must authenticate to access the site. Interpretation of FERPA has determined that a student cannot be anonymous in course support sites like Sakai. However, faculty or courses that use class Web sites and/or discussion groups that are public should take care that only directory information is displayed. The information of students who have asked for non-disclosure of their directory information should not have information in view on any publicly accessible site.