FERPA Guidelines

St. John Fisher University complies fully with the Family Educational Rights of Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal law designed to protect the privacy of a student's educational records. It provides guidelines for appropriately using and releasing student information.

Record Custody, FERPA, and You!

The Registrar's Office is the designated official custodian of the academic record of a student but every advisor and faculty member has records and therefore is a custodian.

A student can challenge a grade for one calendar year after the end of the semester in which the contested grade was earned.

You should keep all materials related to grading for a minimum of one calendar year from the end of each term.

A student may be able to subpoena your advising notes.

You should write all of your notes in a professional, objective tone listing only the facts and refraining from any pejorative statements. Everything you write and place in the student's official advising folder is an educational record and could be subpoenaed. The only exception is a sole possession record that you keep in one of your locked drawers or cabinets and to which no other person has access. A shared advising folder is an educational record even if stored in your office under a lock and key.

A School or department keeps its own advising records under lock and key.

As long as these records are shared they are education records which can be subpoenaed. Like all educational records, the student has the right to inspect these records.

In cleaning your office, you toss all your old student related notes and files in the recycle bin.

Never toss anything related to a student in the trash or recycle bin! Any piece of paper with personally identifiable information about a student must be shredded; you are responsible for seeing that it is shredded or deposited in a secure bin for shredding. If your department or School keeps advising/student folders, the department or School must have a Records Retention Policy and adhere to it.

FERPA Compliance Guidelines

  • Do not take attendance by passing around your class roster printed from Fish 'R' Net.
  • Do not leave graded assignments in the hallway for students to pick up.
  • Do not discuss a student’s performance in class with a parent who just stops by during your office hours or calls with a concern.
  • Do not post grades outside your office or give grades over the phone.
  • Do not send any personally identifiable information or grades to students via email.
  • Do not use an email address other than the @sjf.edu account to contact students.
  • Do not share your advising notes, a web transcript, or a degree evaluation with other faculty members, even those in your department or program.
  • Do not respond to outside requests for specific information about your students, the students in your major or program, or the students in the University. Refer all requests to the director of marketing and communications.
  • Do not merge two or more Brightspace courses without notifying students in both sections and providing an opportunity for students to express their concern with this practice. This does not apply to officially cross-listed courses.
  • Do not use the student name or ID in the subject line of an @sjf.edu email to other University personnel.
  • The best way to avoid FERPA problems is simply to think about student information as your information and protect it the very same way you would want your personal information treated.

FERPA restricts the sharing of student educational records (i.e. records in any medium that relate to an identifiable student) without permission, except as allowed under certain exemptions. With many changes to our teaching modalities, there are concerns around remaining FERPA compliant. More Information on FERPA. Please use the following guidelines to manage your electronic course content to help SJF remain FERPA compliant.

Recording of Course Content

  • Course content that does not involve any identifiable student information does not implicate FERPA. Asynchronous lectures depicting only the faculty member, whether generated by Zoom, Ensemble Anthem, VoiceThread, or on an iPad would all be compliant and can be distributed through any channel (e.g. Brightspace, YouTube) assuming there are no independent reasons for restricting access such as copyright concerns addressed in other materials.
  • If students are included in the recordings, either through questions or interactions, then the platform use for your classroom sessions must be FERPA-compliant. (See below for information on which platforms are FERPA compliant.) The primary restriction is that the material can only be distributed within the course, and you must take reasonable precautions to prevent any broader release. Further, personal information such as grades should be restricted to individual students, only.
    • The presumption is that you will not have students “appearing” in your lectures, but rather only as ancillary participants through questions or active teaching. It is not “illegal” to capture student presentations or comments in a class and to share recordings with members of that same class. However, such sessions should not be posted publicly on platforms such as YouTube, Instagram, or similar social media sites, as set forth below.
  • Brightspace:
    • Zoom sessions that are initiated within Brightspace, and where recordings are made to the cloud, will be FERPA compliant.  The processed recordings are posted only to the Zoom cloud available through Brightspace.
    • Recording of Zoom sessions initiated through sjfc.zoom.us are not FERPA compliant as the final recordings are not strictly restricted to the class members.  However, if you record to your computer and upload only to your Brightspace site, the process can be FERPA compliant.
    • Sharing a Zoom recording that includes identifiable student information with anyone other than the members of that specific class section is a violation of FERPA. Unless the courses are merged in Brightspace and the recording is shared within Brightspace. 
  • Zoom:
    • Zoom sessions that are initiated within Brightspace, and where recordings are made to the cloud, will be FERPA compliant. The processed recordings are posted only to the Zoom cloud available through Brightspace.
    • Recording of Zoom sessions initiated through https://sjfc.zoom.us, outside of Brightspace, may not be FERPA compliant as the final recordings are not strictly restricted to the class members.  However, if you only share the recording with members of your course, the process can be FERPA compliant.
  • YuJa (desktop lecture recording):
    • Studio can be used in numerous ways to produce recordings, involving or not involving students.  If students are involved, the same principles as Zoom recordings would apply, i.e. Recordings should be accessible only by members of the class.
  • YuJa Video & Mobile Application:
    • The live streaming feature of YuJa platform and mobile application should not be used for live-streaming or recording lectures involving students.
  • YuJa Anthem (desktop lecture recording):
    • As primarily a method for recording content outside of the classroom environment, it is unlikely these recordings would include students, and therefore unlikely Anthem will involve FERPA issues.
  • VoiceThread
    • Instructor-created VoiceThreads that include students’ comments (audio, video or text) should only be shared with students within the specific course to remain FERPA compliant. Instructor-created VoiceThreads can be reused from one semester to the next or across sections, but this should be done by making a copy of the VoiceThread and not including previous student comments.
    • Student-created VoiceThreads should only be shared within the specific course in which they were created. Instructors who wish to share examples of student work with other groups of students or outside audiences may do so only after acquiring permission from the student whose work you would like to showcase.
  • YouTube:
    • Is not FERPA compliant if there is any student involvement in the session and therefore is not allowed for recordings that include students.

Copyright Compliance

In order to stay within the bounds of “fair use”, access to lectures incorporating unlicensed third-party content such as photographic images and sound recordings should be limited to members of the class and not posted on public platforms.

For more information, refer to Education Records and FERPA in the undergraduate catalog.