FERPA for Faculty

Generally, share student specific information only with the individual student.

As rule of thumb, presume that all student information is confidential, and do not disclose information to a third party without a student’s written consent except to University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information. Consult with the Registrar’s Office to understand which information the University can properly disclose. To verify if a student is listed as confidential, please enter the MyInfo site, and under the Faculty Services tab, choose the Detailed Class List  and look for the word "Confidential" next to the student's name.

IF you are sure that a student’s record is not marked confidential, THEN you may share Directory Information.

During a semester if you want to allow students to pick up homework unattended or to share other course-specific, FERPA-protected information you may create a section-specific unique number to be shared only between the student and faculty of a particular course-section you may use that number as section-specific-identifier for submitting and returning graded material via public-posting. 

Be advised that the number used as a section-specific-identifier must be assigned by the faculty, should be “randomly” generated to avoid deduction (no easily-discernable patterns of assignment) and may not be used for any other purpose.  The number may not be used in other course sections this semester or future semesters.  There can be no other personally identifiable information on the graded material.

Avoid inadvertently disclosing information from student records by following these examples.

  • Do not place graded, identifiable student work in the hallway or an un-monitored area for students to pick up.
  • Do not post or display grades either publicly or to other students, in print or electronic form, if grades are linked to a student ID number, name, or other identifier. For larger classes, grades can be posted for exams only if a unique ID or number is used that is known only to the instructor and a student.
  • Avoid requiring students to post identifiable homework assignments or projects in a publicly accessible online forum (e.g., Facebook, YouTube, and other social media spaces).
  • Instead of requiring students to participate in a publicly accessible online blog, allow students to opt out, create a private blog, or, preferably, consider using the campus learning management system. 
  • If Doodle or a similar system is used to solicit or share calendar or schedule information, create a private poll so student information is not disclosed to other students.
  • Obtain consent from new students before sharing any of their personal information, biographical or academic, with other students, faculty, or others.
  • Do not circulate or post a class roster of student names or one that includes photographs or student ID numbers.
  • The cloud computing environment offers many handy and inexpensive applications. However, placing any information about students at a website not under contract with the University may raise FERPA issues. Make the use of these sites optional, or allow students concerned about privacy to provide their information to you in a secure manner.
  • In letters of recommendation, faculty, teaching assistants, and readers can discuss their personal observations, but they should not disclose information from student records, such as grades, without the student’s consent.

Occasionally, a school official may be asked, or volunteer, to write a letter of recommendation on behalf of a student.

This usually would not require the student's written release or authorization. But if the letter includes information that falls within FERPA's definition of educational records--such as grade point average or class ranking--the student's written consent to include such information would be necessary.

Faculty are not automatically entitled to access all information about their students. Faculty have a legitimate educational interest in information only if the information is relevant and necessary for them to fulfill their role in the student’s education.

Faculty, teaching assistants, and readers can share information about distressed or disruptive students with University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information. In addition, if a health or safety emergency exists, faculty, teaching assistants, and readers can share information with other people, within and outside the University, to protect the health or safety of the student or others.

Students have a right to access most information in the records that the University maintains about them, including e-mail messages between faculty or staff that refer or relate to them. Knowing that a student might read your e-mail message later, keep your e-mail messages focused on facts and try to avoid communicating subjective judgments. Notwithstanding their general right of access, students do not have a right to access records that are kept in the sole possession of the person who created the record, are used only as a personal memory aid, and are not accessible by or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute for the person who created the record.

Some students exercise their right under FERPA to restrict the University from disclosing any information about them, not even their name or existence at the University, because serious threats to their personal safety exist or for other reasons. The University must ensure that no information about students who exercise this right is disclosed except to University officials who have a legitimate educational interest in the information.

Parents of MSU students do not have a right to obtain information from student records, including grades and faculty records about a student’s performance in class.