FERPA Faculty/Staff FAQs

General FERPA FAQs

How do I properly dispose of confidential information?

Dispose of all material containing confidential information (such as tests, papers, class rosters) by shredding or by placing them in a receptacle intended for the collection of material to be disposed of in a secure manner.

How does FERPA affect letters of recommendation?

Writing a letter of recommendation may require express, written permission from the student to allow you 1) to access the student's educational records and 2) to disclose confidential information about the student to a third party. A faculty member may access a student's educational records without the student's express written permission only if specific job duties, such as the duties of an academic advisor, require access to those records. However, a faculty member, or any other appropriate University official, may not disclose confidential information from a student's educational records to a third party without express, written permission from the student. Personal observations about a student may be disclosed without the student's consent.

May I disclose information to parents or spouses?

Without the expressed, written permission of the student, parents or spouses, like all other third parties, may have access only to the student's directory information. If a student has restricted his or her directory information, then directory information is also considered confidential.

May I list all the students in our major/minor/certificate on our departmental website?

Student names and programs of study are directory information, so on the surface, this appears to be a permissible action to take. However, you will first need to remove all the students who have restricted the release of directory information (listed as "CONFIDENTIAL" in Edgar/WebApps). Additionally, you have the problem of upkeep with who has restricted directory information release. Since a student--at any time--can request to restrict directory information, you do not have a reliable way of ensuring that your list contains only those who have not restricted directory information, since it could change minute-by-minute, with someone on the list ten minutes ago now needing to come off the list/website.

Because of the complicated nature of this situation, it is strongly discouraged to list this information without explicit written consent from the students involved. Taking solely the directory information route opens up the possibility of a FERPA violation and is not considered a best practice in this situation. If you need assistance with the written consent form, please contact us at registrar@rice.edu.

Do individuals who are auditing or taking continuing education / executive education (non-credit courses) have rights under FERPA?

Yes, FERPA does not make a distinction between "credit" and "non-credit" courses. If the records contain personally identifiable information about students and are maintained in any way by Rice, they are education records under FERPA.

FERPA and Lecture Capture and Audio/Video Recording FAQs

As classroom technologies continue to advance, more instructors are utilizing video and audio recordings of class sessions and student projects. Recordings are sometimes used to allow students to watch a missed class session, to review an earlier session, to share with next year’s class, to incorporate into massive open online courses (MOOCs), or for accreditation purposes. Depending on how the recordings are created or edited, they may constitute educational records that are protected under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) -- the federal student privacy law. This guidance explains acceptable practices for utilizing video and audio recordings in the classroom setting.

The FAQs below contain some specific questions that we have received from the Rice community. Additional information about photos, video, and audio recording under FERPA can be found on the US Department of Education FAQs on Photos and Videos under FERPA.

Are video or audio recordings of classroom lectures a protected student record?

Whenever we need to determine if something (any record in any medium) has FERPA implications, we need to be able to answer “Yes” to these two questions:

  • Is the record/data maintain by Rice (or a Rice school official or vendor)?
  • Is the record personally identifiable to a student? (Or, could a reasonable member of the community use what is available in the record and combine it with other information a reasonable member of the community would have to determine the identity of the individual?)

In other words, if a recording includes only the instructor, it is not a student record and FERPA does not limit its use. If the recording includes students asking questions, making presentations or leading a class (other than TAs), and it is possible to identify the student, then the portions containing recordings of the student do constitute protected educational records. Educational records can only be used as permitted by FERPA or in a manner allowed by a written consent from the student.

Can classroom recordings be incorporated into MOOCs or other similar uses?

Any use must comply with FERPA, either through written consents or de-identification of students depicted.

Can the instructor show recordings from last year’s class to the current class?

It depends. If a recording includes only the instructor, it is not a student record and FERPA does not limit its use. If the recording contains students, then under FERPA, this situation must be treated as if the recordings were being shown to a third-party audience which requires FERPA compliance through use of consents or de-identification of any students depicted.

If the professor wants to allow access to a video (that includes student participation) to others outside of the class, is this permitted?

Possibly. There are several ways to use recordings that include student participation:

1. The instructor or Rice may obtain individualized FERPA consents from the students in the recording which allow use of this portion of the recordings. This type of consent can be obtained on a case-by-case basis or from all the students at the outset of a class. A form template is available to download here.

2. Recordings can be edited to either omit any student who has not consented to the use of their voice or image, or be edited to de-identify the student in the recording (which can include avoiding or removing any mention of the student’s name, blurring the student’s image, altering voice recordings, etc.).

3. Recordings can also be planned so that students (such as those asking questions during a class) are not shown in the video or referred to by name (another way to de-identify the student).

May a recording that includes student participation be posted for other class members to view or listen to?

Yes. If access is limited to other students in the class, FERPA does not limit or prevent its use and does not require obtaining a written consent. This allows instructors to create access for students in the class to watch or re-watch past class sessions.

What if a student declines to sign a FERPA consent?

Students cannot be compelled or required to give consent to release information. If possible, you may de-identify the student from the data/record/recording, but if the student cannot be de-identified, you may not release the data/record/recording.

What is the easiest way to comply with FERPA if I am video recording my class sessions and students will be asking questions and doing presentations?

Plan the recordings so that they do not show students who are asking questions, don’t refer to the students by name, and avoid repeating the student’s question in the recording (de-identifying the students removes the need for a specific consent from each student depicted). If a student happens to appear on camera, their identity can be edited out or a written consent can be obtained.

Because student presentations make it more difficult to de-identify the student, the instructor and Rice should obtain a FERPA consent from the student making a presentation. For any video projects, such as student-made films, you should obtain a written consent.

Who can I consult for guidance on how to comply with federal law in my use of class-related recordings?

You should call the Office of the Registrar (David Tenney (x8036) or Justin Schilke (x3157)) or the General Counsel’s Office (x5998). Faculty and instructors should not use class recordings for other non-Rice, non-educational purposes without first consulting with either of these two offices.

With the lecture capture release form, can the form be altered or amended before signing?

No. The form should be signed AS IS. It can only be agreed upon, or declined, in its entirety. This is to prevent a FERPA violation from occurring.

The form (available here) was developed with input from Academic Technology Services, General Counsel, and the Office of the Registrar, and it should cover all issues surrounding FERPA and classroom recording. If you feel that you have a unique situation not covered by the form, please contact the Office of the Registrar.