Frequently Asked Questions - F/A

Frequently Asked Questions

students raising hands

"University Officials" are university employees or third parties under contract with the University to achieve educational missions of the University. This includes but is not limited to faculty, staff, advisors, counselors, employment placement personnel, deans, department chairpersons, directors, university police, health staff and development officers.

A University of Nebraska-Lincoln official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an educational record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for UNL.

However:

  • Curiosity is not a legitimate educational interest. You may not look up a student out of curiosity.
  • Just being a UNL employee does not mean you have legitimate educational interest. Access to the information must be related to your job and the education of the student.
  • Access to information does not authorize unrestricted use.

All university employees who have access to student records are responsible for guarding the confidentiality of those records (including all educational records such as tests, papers, etc.)

  • Never disclose, share or loan your NUID or password to anyone. Everyone should obtain their own individual log-on if access for them is deemed necessary.
  • Ensure that remote access to, retrieval, and transmission of confidential academic record information is accomplished through a secure and encrypted connection.
  • Faculty and staff should restrict unauthorized persons from viewing confidential information. Some examples would include:
    • never leave your computer unattended while signed on. Using a password-protected screen saver is one way but protective measures should be taken to ensure information is protected as well as unauthorized access to your work area
    • never leave personal logon information in view of unauthorized persons
    • always lock your office and lock up any educational records or confidential information away from view

Educational records are pieces of information relating to students and maintained by the institution or it's agent. This information is not permitted to be released to the general public. Educational records can be:

  • Handwritten Notes
  • Computer Files/Generated Information
  • Printed Information
  • Video or Audio
  • Microfile or Microfiche
  • Photos
  • Any information maintained in any way about the student

Information kept by and only seen by staff is not considered an educational record.

The following records are excluded from the definition of educational records:

  • "Sole possession" records made by faculty and staff for their own use as reference or memory aids and not shared with others
  • Personal observations
  • University law enforcement records
  • Medical and mental health records used only for the treatment of the student
  • Alumni records
  • Peer graded papers and exams prior to the grade being recorded in the instructor's grade book

Yes, unless these notes fall into the category of "sole possession" records. "Sole possession" records are made by faculty and staff for their own use as reference or memory aids and not shared with others. If the notes do not fall in this category, they are subject to FERPA. Therefore, it is important that notes are factual and free of inappropriate language.

No. Faculty/advisors members are considered "school officials," but the employee must demonstrate "a legitimate educational interest" in their request to access student records. You may only view a student’s information if it is necessary to complete your job.

Only if it is necessary to perform your job. Otherwise, you may only discuss student records with the student.

Grades are not directory information, so it is imperative that grades cannot be identified with a student. You cannot use personal identification matched with a grade: this includes name, NUID, SSN, or a list order that is deductible such as alphabetic or roster order.

Yes, but classes using class websites or discussion groups must take extra caution to not release non-directory information. It is recommended that you apply a security layer so only the instructor and class members can access information.

Yes, but caution should be taken. These platforms are public and can be viewed by others. Comments, grades, or any other protected information cannot be posted.

Do not respond with any non-directory information. Answer the student either in person or on a secure platform.

No, students cannot choose to be anonymous in the classroom setting. Even if a student has chosen to hide their directory information, this does not mean that their name and email cannot be used in the classroom and class forums/discussion boards, or chats.

Yes, FERPA allows an exception for educational records to be released in case of a threat to the health and safety of the student or others. The decision to release such information to police, university officials, or parents relies on the level of threat and your discretion. However, best practice is to contact Student Affairs.

Yes, you may discuss or send information to schools where the student plans to enroll or transfer.

The individual writing a letter or recommendation is permitted to include details about the student as long as the information falls under public directory information and does not qualify as educational records. For example, the writer can state, “Exceptional Student,” but cannot say, “Earned an A in my class.” However, the author may include non-directory information in his letter ONLY if written consent from the student is first obtained.

No. FERPA does not allow you to discuss student information with any third party unless you have written consent from the student.

Check to see if they have written consent from the student, if they do, you are free to discuss information with them. If they do not have consent, you may only discuss public directory information with them (unless that is restricted as well).

  • If the parent is accompanied with the student you may discuss information with them (However, if you are not confident of the student's identity, ask for an ID)
  • You should not accept written consent from the parent without either seeing the student sign it or the student provided additional written consent to you.
  • Always make sure you ID the person with whom you will be discussing the information.

At UNL, a student's class schedule is not listed as directory information; therefore this information may not be released. However, FERPA states that if the release of non-directory information is “necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals,” then this information may be released. At UNL, parents should be directed to contact the Vice Chancellor’s Office of Student Affairs.

Be cautious discussing educational records over the phone and email. Use reasonable inquisition to confirm the person is the student, someone who has written consent, or a school official with legitimate educational interest*. Those who have written consent will have a security code/phrase that they must give to you.

*See here for more exceptions