Definition of Education Record
FERPA defines an education record as any record directly related to a student which contains personally identifiable information and is maintained by the university or a party acting on behalf of the university. Such records are available for review by the student by submitting a written request to the office or department responsible for the maintenance of the record.
Records not reviewable under FERPA are medical records, law enforcement records, sole possession records and alumni records. Medical records are protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and related state privacy laws. The sole possession records of a university employee are also not eligible for review under FERPA. Sole possession records are privately written notes kept by an employee separate from any official or shared files kept by the university.
Personal observations by an employee which are not recorded as a university record are not protected by FERPA. For example if a professor wishes to report that a student is bringing a large stuffed animal to class each day to another professor, this is not a protected record. If the same professor reports the same behavior to the Dean of Student and she writes a report based on the professor’s observations, that report becomes part of the student’s record, and is protected by FERPA.