In conformance with requirements established by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, 20 U.S.C. 1232g, (“FERPA”) and federal regulations
related thereto, Trinity College hereby provides notice of procedures and policies regarding student access to education records maintained by and at the College. It is the intent of Trinity College to comply fully with all provisions of the act, and for that reason, the College’s prior procedures and policies have been revised so that they are consistent with the requirements and perceived intent of both the act and regulations interpreting the act.

The College’s procedures and policies must, of course, remain subject to any future modification made necessary or appropriate as a result of subsequent legislation; regulations; or judicial, federal, or administrative interpretations of the act. What follows is an explanation of the act and the regulations, and a description of the procedures and policies adopted by the College in compliance with the legislation. Questions regarding the legislation and Trinity guidelines should be addressed to the President’s Office. Copies of the act and the regulations are available for review in that office.

The purpose of the act, as it applies to Trinity College, is twofold: a) to give presently or formerly enrolled Trinity students access to their individual education records maintained at the College, and b)to protect such students’ rights to privacy by limiting the transfer of their records without their consent.

Education Records

“Education records” are defined as any information directly related to a student that is recorded in any manner (e.g., in writing, on film, on tape or disk) that is maintained by the College or one of its agents. Education records do not include a) private notes and other materials created by individual College personnel, provided they are not accessible or revealed to another individual, except a “substitute”; b) employment records made in the normal course of business used only in relation to the student’s employment (unless contingent upon attendance); c) medical, psychiatric, or similar records that are used solely in connection with treatment purposes and are only available to recognized professionals or paraprofessionals in connection with such treatment (provided, however, that a physician or other appropriate professional of the student’s choice may review such records); and d) law enforcement records that are kept separate from education
records, maintained by a law enforcement unit, and were created by that unit for the purpose of law enforcement. In each case, the act does not require the College to grant access to the types of records listed above. Therefore, student access to such records is at the sole discretion of the individual(s) who maintains these materials.

Confidential Communications/Records Inaccessible to Students

It should also be noted that the act specifically indicates that the legislation does not alter the confidentiality of communications otherwise protected by law. To ensure that the College does not compromise the rights individuals enjoyed prior to the enactment of legislation, students and alumni will not be permitted access to materials of an evaluative nature that were received or placed in files prior to
November 19, 1974. Additionally as provided by the act, students shall not have the right to see confidential letters and statements of recommendation placed in education records prior to January 1, 1975, provided that such letters and statements are used only for the purposes for which they were intended and were solicited or sent with a documented understanding of confidentiality. The act
further stipulates that students do not have the right to see financial records of their parents. Further, the regulations specify that the act is not applicable to records that contain only information relating to a person after he/she is no longer a student at the College.

Waiver of Rights

As provided by the legislation, students may voluntarily waive their rights of access to confidential recommendations respecting admissions, employment, and receipt of honors or awards. Under no circumstances, however, can a student be required to waive this right. (It should be understood that faculty and administrators are not required to write letters of recommendation on behalf of students, with or without the use of waivers.) To execute a waiver, the student will be asked to sign and date a written form specifying that information to which he/she voluntarily waives the right of access. Such forms are available at various college administrative offices, including the Career Development Center and the Registrar’s Office. In waiving his/her right of access, the student retains the right to be notified, upon request, of the name of each person who has submitted such a confidential evaluation or recommendation. Moreover, the recommendation may be used only for the purpose intended. A waiver may not be required as a condition for admission to the College, receipt of financial aid, or any other services or benefits from the College. The act clarifies that the “student” to whom the right of access belongs is defined as any person concerning whom the College maintains education records or personal information but does not include anyone who has not been in attendance at the College. Thus, an applicant for admission to Trinity College who is not admitted is not given the right under the act to see or challenge letters of recommendation or other records. Additionally, the act does not give the applicant the right to challenge the College’s decision not to admit. The rights provided by the act only accrue to those individuals who actually enroll at the College.

Release of Information to Parents

The College has the right to provide to the parent or legal guardian of a dependent student, as defined for federal income tax purposes, information about his or her child without the College seeking the student’s consent. Thus, at its discretion, the College will provide such information to the extent that it is permitted by law. Should the parents of a dependent student request the student’s grades, the
Registrar’s Office will fulfill the request. Such a policy alters previous College policy, which gave every student of majority age sole power to decide whether his or her parents are to receive such information as student grades and college bills. Students should also be aware that the College may disclose information regarding drug and alcohol violations pursuant to the parental notification policy set forth in the Student Handbook.

Release of Records

Except for those parties stated below, no one shall have access to education records without the signed written consent of the student concerned. The exceptions to the consent requirements are:

  1. College officials deemed to have a legitimate educational interest in the records. College officials include such individuals as faculty, staff members, trustees, persons or students serving on an official Trinity committee assisting an official in his or her tasks (e.g., student employees), or a company or person employed or contracted by Trinity College to perform a special task (including, but not limited to, attorneys, auditors, and collection agencies). A College official has a legitimate educational interest in a student’s education record if the official needs to review the record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibility. A “legitimate educational
    interest” may include review of academic records by faculty and staff representing national honor societies.
  2. Officials of another school in which the student seeks or intends to enroll, provided the student is given notice of the transfer, receives a copy of the record (if desired), and has an opportunity for a hearing to challenge the content of the record in accordance with the procedures of this policy.
  3. Authorized representatives of the comptroller general or attorney general of the United States, the secretary of education, or state and local educational authorities, in connection with the audit, evaluation, or enforcement of state and federally supported education programs. Disclosure may only be made under this exception if personally identifiable information collected by the above representatives is destroyed when no longer needed for the purpose intended, unless the collection of such information is specifically authorized by law or the student has given written consent for disclosure.
  4. Persons processing a student’s financial aid application, or receipt of financial aid but only to the extent of determining eligibility, amount, and conditions for aid and enforcing such conditions or terms.
  5. To state and local officials or authorities to whom information from student records is specifically required to be reported or disclosed pursuant to state statute adopted prior to November 19, 1974, if the disclosure concerns the juvenile justice system and its ability to effectively serve the student whose records are released. If a state statute concerning the juvenile justice system adopted after November 19, 1974, permits disclosure, records may be disclosed provided that the officials and authorities to whom the records are provided certify in writing that the information will not be subsequently disclosed to another party without the prior written consent
    of the student, except as permitted by state law.
  6. Organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies and institutions for the purpose of developing, validating, or administering predictive tests; administering student aid programs; or improving instruction, provided that the identity of students is not revealed to anyone other than representatives of such organizations and the information is destroyed when no longer needed for the purpose for which the study was conducted.
  7. Recognized accrediting organizations carrying out their accrediting functions.
  8. Parents or legal guardians of a student who is dependent upon such parents or legal guardians for federal income tax purposes.
  9. To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena provided the College makes reasonable efforts to notify the student in advance of compliance. However, the College is not required to notify the student if disclosure is requested pursuant to a) a
    federal grand jury subpoena and the court has ordered that the existence or the contents of the subpoena, or the information furnished in response to the subpoena, not be disclosed or b) any other subpoena issued for a law enforcement purpose and the court or other issuing agency has ordered that the existence of the subpoena (or its contents or information to be furnished) not be disclosed.
  10. In connection with a health and safety emergency, if the knowledge of in- formation from a student’s record is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other persons. The factors to be taken into account in determining whether personally identifiable information from the education records of a student may be disclosed due to a health and safety emergency include:
    1. the seriousness of the threat to the health or safety of the student
      or other individuals;
    2. the need for information to meet the emergency;
    3. whether the parties to whom the information is disclosed are in a position to deal with the emergency; and
    4. the extent to which time is of the essence in dealing with the emergency.
  11. If the College initiates legal action against a student, in which case the College may disclose to the court, without a court order or subpoena, the student’s educational records that are relevant to proceeding with the legal action; or, if a parent or student initiates legal action against the College, the College may disclose, without court order or subpoena, any of the student’s educational records relevant to defend the College.
  12. A victim of an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence (including arson, assault, burglary, homicide, vandalism, kidnapping, or robbery) or a nonforcible sex offense. In such event, disclosure may include only the final results of any disciplinary proceeding conducted by the College with respect to that crime, regardless of whether the College concluded that a violation was committed.
  13. Disclosure of the final results of a disciplinary proceeding reached on or after October 7, 1998, provided that the College determines that the student is an alleged perpetrator of a crime of violence or non-forcible sex offense, and that the student violated the College’s rules and/or policies with respect to such crime or offense. The final results of the disciplinary proceeding include the student’s name, the violation committed, and the sanction imposed. The College may not disclose the name of any other student, including a victim or witness, without the prior written consent of that other student.
  14. The parents of the student, in accordance with the College’s parental notification policy, when the student has violated federal, state, or local law, or any of the College’s rules or policies governing the use or possession of alcohol or drugs.
  15. To the attorney general of the United States or his/her designee in response to an ex parte order in connection with the investigation or prosecution of terrorism crimes, specified in 18 U.S.C. 2332b(g)(5)(B) and 2331. When producing information or permitting access to student records pursuant to this exception, the College is not required to record its disclosure in the record (log) referenced below.
  16. Disclosure of information provided to the College under 42 U.S.C. 14071 concerning registered sex offenders.

Records released to any organization, agency, or individual shall be transmitted with a notice informing the recipient that such information is released only on the condition that the recipient will not permit any other party to have access to such information without the signed written consent of the student, unless disclosure is otherwise authorized by law.

Each office that maintains education records shall maintain a record for each student that shall list all individuals, agencies, or organizations that have requested or obtained access to such student’s education record. This record requirement does not apply to requests or disclosure to: the student, the student’s parents, a party seeking directory information, a party who has written consent from the student, institution officials (described above), or persons seeking or receiving the information as directed by a federal grand jury or other law enforcement subpoena (provided that the information requested is not to be redisclosed). This record is a permanent part of the student’s educational records and must be available to the student upon request.

A student may inspect material belonging to his/her education record solely at the office that is responsible for maintaining such information. Any office may require that the student inspect that record only in the presence of the office head, who may assist in interpreting the information. Each office has the ultimate responsibility for establishing appropriate procedures; however, each office has been instructed to ask that the student’s request be made in writing, and where appropriate, in person. On request, the student may be required to properly identify himself/herself in filing a request and prior to having access to his/her records. The student is obligated to examine the record during reasonable hours at the place the record is maintained and not to interfere with the operation of the office in which the record is being maintained.

Under the act, the College has 45 calendar days from the time of request until it must comply with the request.

In some instances, materials that are a part of a student’s own record may include reference to other students. In such cases, the individual student’s right to disclosure is limited only to that part of the record that pertains to him/her. The act does not give the student an absolute right of inspection of all such materials. At the College’s discretion, a student can be informed of such materials, as specified by the act, but may legally be denied inspection of them.

Unless and until the College is provided with a written statement of permission by the author, confidential letters and statements of recommendation received prior to January 1, 1975, and evaluative materials received prior to November 19, 1974, will remain confidential and inaccessible to students. Materials received after those dates will not be treated as confidential by the College and will be accessible to students upon request, unless the student has waived his or her rights of access with respect to these materials.

Copies of records accessible to students shall be transmitted to the student upon payment of the established fee for issuing such copies.

Except as permitted by law, transcripts or personally identifiable information concerning a student’s education record will be released to individuals or parties outside the College only with the signed written consent of the student. The act requires that the student’s written consent be signed and dated and indicate which records are to be released, the reasons for such release, and to whom the copies are to be released. A copy of the material to be released may be requested by the student.

Amendment of Records

A student who believes the information contained in his/her education records is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise violates the student’s privacy rights may request that the College amend them. A student who seeks to question such information will be requested to state the basis for the challenge in writing to the head of the office where the student’s records are maintained. The head of the office may, if it is considered that circumstances warrant, alter the material in accordance with the assertion(s) made in the student’s challenge.

If, however, the office head believes the challenge is not warranted, the matter will be referred in a reasonable period after request to a judicial board, empaneled by the dean of students, for an arbitration hearing. The student shall be given notice of the date, place, and time reasonably in advance of the hearing. The purpose of the hearing is to afford the student a full and fair opportunity to challenge and
correct any inaccurate, misleading, or inappropriate information about the student.

The procedures for a hearing will ensure that a decision is rendered by disinterested persons. The judicial board, composed of one undergraduate, one faculty member and one administrator, will provide the student and the office head full opportunity to present their respective positions and to cross-question one another. Excluded from the panel will be any party who has a direct interest in the out- come of the hearing. The board will also hear witnesses when appropriate. The student may be assisted or represented by individuals of his/her choice at his/her own expense, including an attorney. The hearing will otherwise be guided by the applicable provision for due process spelled out in the procedures in complaints against students, as modified to conform to the requirements of the act.

Within a reasonable time after the conclusion of a hearing, the board will issue a written decision, copies of which will be provided to the student and the office head. This decision will be binding. The decision of the College shall be based solely upon the evidence presented at the hearing and shall include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the decision.

If, as a result of the hearing, the College decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights, it shall amend the education records of the student accordingly and so inform the student in writing.

If, as a result of the hearing, the College decides that the information is not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights, it shall inform the student of his or her right to place in the education records a statement commenting upon the information in the education records and/or setting forth any reasons for disagreeing with the decision of the College. Any such explanation placed in the education records of the student shall:

  • be maintained by the College as a part of the education records of the student as long as the record or contested portion thereof is maintained by the College, and
  • if the education records of the student or contested portion thereof is disclosed by the College to any party, the explanation shall also be disclosed to that party.

It should be noted that the scope of records maintained for students may vary greatly depending on individual circumstances. In most cases, student files do not contain many of the types of records noted above. While a number of such records have been accessible to students in the past, certain records will remain confidential and not open to students as provided in the act and regulations and as explained above. Moreover, the act does not deny the College the right to destroy any records if not otherwise precluded by law unless prior to destruction the eligible student has requested access. One of the intentions of the legislation was to encourage colleges and universities to reduce the number of records they maintain. The destruction of records is not inconsistent with the spirit of the law.

Finally, the act requires that a written record be kept with the education records of each student, indicating all parties outside the College who have requested or obtained access to the records. The record must also indicate the legitimate interest that each party has in obtaining the information. As noted previously, the act does not require the student’s prior consent to the release of such files or information to Trinity College faculty or administrators who have a “legitimate educational interest” in seeing the material or to certain other persons, agencies, and organizations specified above and in the act. Access and release forms are available in those College offices that keep student files.

The act and regulations thereto contain further information, much of which is technical and not appropriate for inclusion in this notice. The College will, of course, be guided by all sections of the act and regulations and not solely by those subjects and requirements addressed in this notice. Again, further clarification and copies of the legislation can be obtained through the President’s Office.

In conclusion, two points should be re-emphasized. First, the College intends to comply fully with the intent and spirit of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act and the regulations related thereto. Second, the policies and procedures of the College remain subject to modification made necessary or appropriate as a result of subsequent legislation, regulations, or judicial and federal administrative  interpretations of the act. Any questions regarding the legislation or the College’s procedures and policies should be directed to the
President’s Office.

Students have a right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the College to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that oversees FERPA is:

Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, S.W.
Washington, DC 20202-4605