Privacy Rights of Parents and Students - FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and its implementing regulations (collectively, "FERPA") is a federal law which states that institutions must establish and make available a written institutional policy and a statement of adopted procedures covering the privacy rights of students.

FERPA requires institutions to maintain the confidentiality of student education records and sets forth the rights of students and parents concerning student education records, including access, review, disclosure, and challenge of education record content. The following definitions are essential to understand and apply the provisions of FERPA:

  1. Directory Information means information contained in an education record of a student that would not generally be considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed.
  2. Education Records means those records directly related to a student and maintained by the institution or by a party acting for the institution. The term "education records" does not include:
    1. Records of instructional, supervisory, administrative and certain educational personnel which are in the sole possession of the maker thereof, and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except a substitute who performs on a temporary basis the duties of the individual who made the record. b. Records maintained by a law enforcement unit of the institution that were created by that law enforcement unit for the purpose of law enforcement and are not shared with others.
    2. 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. Records of individuals in attendance at the institution who are employed as a result of their status as students are education records (e.g., work-study, graduate teaching assistants).
    3. Records relating to a student which are created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional acting in his or her capacity or assisting in a paraprofessional capacity and used solely in connection with the provision of treatment to the student and not disclosed to anyone other than individuals providing such treatment, so long as the records can be personally viewed by a physician or other appropriate professional of the student's choice. (Appropriateness may be determined by the institution.) "Treatment" in this context does not include remedial educational activities or activities which are part of the program of instruction at the institution.
    4. Records of an institution which contain only information relating to a person after that person is no longer a student at the institution (e.g., information gathered on the accomplishments of alumni).
  3. Student means any individual for whom an educational institution maintains education records. The term "student" does not include an individual who has not been in attendance at the institution.
  4. School Officials means those members of an institution who act in the student's educational interest within the limitations of their "need to know". These may include faculty, administration, clerical and professional employees and other persons who manage student records information, including employees and agents. For purposes of education records at WVSOM, the term "school officials" also includes employees of affiliated facilities with a legitimate educational interest in the educational records of students to the extent that access to the students' records are required to carry out the clinical rotation program at those affiliated facilities (i.e., for student clinical rotations).
  5. Legitimate Educational Interest means the demonstrated "need to know" by school officials.

WVSOM accords all the rights under FERPA to students who are declared independent. WVSOM will not disclose any information from a student's education records without the student's written consent, except for the following disclosures which are permitted under FERPA: to school officials within WVSOM, to officials of other institutions in which students seek to enroll, to persons or organizations providing students financial aid, to accrediting agencies carrying out their accreditation function, to persons in compliance with a court order, to person in an emergency in order to protect the health and safety of students or other persons, and to persons designated by WVSOM as agents of WVSOM to perform administrative or management functions.

Within the WVSOM community, only those school officials, individually or collectively, who demonstrate a legitimate educational interest are allowed access to student education records.

At its discretion, WVSOM may provide Directory Information about students in accordance with FERPA. This information includes student name; address; telephone number; date and place of birth; email address; cell phone number; photograph; major field of study; dates of attendance; degrees, honors, and awards received; the most recent previous educational agency or institution attended by the student; and participation in officially recognized activities. Students may withhold Directory Information by notifying the Registrar in writing within two (2) weeks after the first day of class for the fall term. Requests for nondisclosure will be honored by WVSOM for only one academic year; therefore, requests must be filed with the Registrar upon annual matriculation.

FERPA provides students with the right to inspect and review information contained in their education records, to challenge the contents of their education records, to have a hearing if the outcome of the challenge is unsatisfactory, and to submit explanatory statements for inclusion in their files if they feel the decision of the hearing panel is unacceptable. WVSOM has designated the Registrar to coordinate the inspection and review procedures for student education records, which include admissions, personal, academic, and financial files and placement records. Students wishing to review their education records must submit a written request to the office charged with the maintenance of such records and must specify which education record(s) the students wish to review. Those education records covered by FERPA will be made available to the student for review within forty-five (45) days of the request, as provided by FERPA. Students may have copies made of their education records, unless an exception applies (e.g., a financial "hold" exists for a student who requests a copy of his or her academic record or a transcript of an original source document was requested which exists elsewhere). Any copies made are at the student's expense at a cost of $0.25 per page.

Education records do not include records of instructional, administrative, or educational personnel which are the sole possession of the maker and are not accessible or revealed to any other individual except as a temporary substitute; records of law enforcement; student health records; employment records; or alumni records. Health records may be reviewed by healthcare professionals of the students' choosing.

As outlined by FERPA, students may not inspect and review financial information submitted by their parents; confidential letters and recommendations associated with admissions, employment, or job placement, or honors to which they have waived their rights of inspection and review; or education records containing information about more than one student, in which case WVSOM will permit access only to that part of the record concerning the requesting student.

A student who believes that his or her education records contain information that is inaccurate or misleading, or is otherwise in violation of his or her privacy or other rights may discuss his or her concerns informally with the Assistant Dean for Preclinical Education. If the Assistant Dean for Preclinical Education agrees with the student's concerns, the appropriate records will be amended. If the Assistant Dean for Preclinical Education disagrees with the student's concerns, the Assistant Dean for Preclinical Education will notify the student within a reasonable period of time that the records will not be amended and that the student has a right to a formal hearing. Student requests for a formal hearing must be made in writing to the Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean who, within a reasonable period of time after receiving a request, will inform the student of the date, time, and place of the hearing. The student may present evidence relevant to the challenges raised and may be assisted or represented at the hearing by one or more persons of the student's choice, including an attorney at the student's expense. The hearing panel shall consist of the following members: the Registrar, the Chairperson of the Student Promotions Committee, the Associate Dean for Preclinical Education, and the Associate Dean for Predoctoral Clinical Education.

Decisions of the hearing panel shall be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing, shall consist of written statements summarizing the evidence and stating the reasons for the decisions, and shall be delivered to all parties concerned. The decisions of the hearing panel are final. If the decisions are in favor of the student, the education records will be corrected or amended in accordance with the hearing panel's decisions. If the decisions are unsatisfactory to the student, the student may prepare a statement commenting on the information in the records or setting forth any reasons for disagreement with the hearing panel's decisions. The statement will be placed in the student's education records, maintained as part of the student's records, and released whenever the records in question are disclosed.

Students may file a written complaint concerning alleged violations of FERPA with the Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202.