Ask the FERPA Professor

Dear FERPA Professor,

Our institution recently implemented a cloud based document manager. Student’s files are scanned and uploaded to this cloud. If there is an envelope in the student’s file indicating “Confidential,” 1. Should we open it and scan it in to our document manager? 2. If scanned and the student requests to see their student file, the envelope is now open, does the student have a right to view said confidential note? 3. If we do not open it and scan it, if a student requests to view their student file, are they allowed to open the envelope?

The institution maintains one student file, but the office of disability services also maintains a student file for any student requesting or receiving disability services. These files are not scanned in to our document manager. Does the student have access to this file? If there is a sealed envelope in their disability file, do they have access to view that as well?

Thanks,

Heir Uppthere

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Dear Heir,

Concerning your inquiry, all records that are directly related to a student are "education records" subject to inspection and review by the student unless any of the conditions associated with the specific exceptions to the definition found in §99.3 of the FERPA regulations are met.  Whether or not the document(s) is scanned and whether or not it says "confidential" has no bearing on the determination and the institution would be required to provide the student the opportunity to see the record(s) upon request.  This would include any records on the student being maintained by the disability services office at your institution.  You can find the "education records" definition and the listed exceptions on page 154 of the 2012 AACRAO FERPA Guide.

I hope this is helpful in answering your question,

The FERPA Professor

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