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Office of Student Conduct

FAQ for Parents and Guardians

How can I learn how my student is doing?
Does the University have any written policy about information from student records that can be shared with parents?
Where can I find out more information about FERPA?
What records does FERPA cover?
What does it mean to say a record is "protected" by FERPA?
What are the exceptions to FERPA's coverage?
I had easy access to my student's school records, why don't I have the same access to records kept by the University?
Why do I have limited access to my student's college records when I'm paying her college expenses?
How do I provide documentation of my student's dependent status?
How can I find out my student's grades?
Will I be notified if my student is put on academic probation or is subject to academic dismissal?
Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger?
Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger in a fraternity or sorority house?
What if my student is hurt or in danger off-campus?
Will I be informed if my student is treated at the Health Center or is seeing a counselor in the Counseling Center?
How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?
I have seen press reports about a new FERPA provision allowing notice to parents when a student violates drug or alcohol laws. What position has the University taken on this new rule?
Will I be notified if my student becomes involved with controversial or harmful groups?
Who can parents call if they have additional questions about student privacy rights at the University of Maryland?


How can I learn how my student is doing?
The best approach is to ask your son or daughter directly. Communicating with young adults isn't easy. They're not always as forthcoming as we would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.

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Does the University have any written policy about information from student records that can be shared with parents?
Yes. Like other colleges and universities across the country, the University of Maryland is subject to a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called "FERPA" or the "Buckley Amendment"). FERPA sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies. The University of Maryland policy (titled Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records) is available in the undergraduate catalog and online.

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Where can I find out more information about FERPA?
FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department maintains a FERPA website (with links to FERPA regulations) at:
http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html

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What records does FERPA cover?
The privacy protection FERPA gives to students is very broad. With limited exceptions discussed below, part 99.3 of the FERPA regulations gives privacy protection to all student education records. Education records are defined as "[t]hose records that are directly related to a student and [are] [m]aintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution." Examples of student records entitled to FERPA privacy protection are grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files.

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What does it mean to say a record is "protected" by FERPA?
Unless personally identifiable information from a student's education record falls under a specified exception, the information cannot be released to third parties (including parents) without signed and dated written consent from the student.

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What are the exceptions to FERPA's coverage?
There is a detailed list of exceptions in part 99.3 of the FERPA regulations ("education records" defined) and in 99.31. Perhaps the most important exception allows "disclosure [of information in student education records] to the parents of a dependent student, as defined in section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986" (part 99.31 (a) (8)).

Also, among the records not protected by FERPA are dates of attendance, academic major, and degrees received (see, generally, the University "Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records," Part II "Directory Information").

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I had easy access to my student's school records, why don't I have the same access to records kept by the University?
Under FERPA, the access rights that parents and legal guardians had in the elementary and secondary school setting are transferred to students, once a student has turned eighteen, or is attending any post-secondary educational institution. See FERPA regulations section 99.3 ("eligible student" defined) and 99.5 (a) ("rights of students").

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Why do I have limited access to my student's college records when I'm paying her college expenses?
As a parent or legal guardian you normally can have access to your student's college records. The best way to do so is with the student's consent. Nonetheless, as indicated in the answer to question six, if you claim your son or daughter as a dependent for federal tax purposes, the University will give you access to his or her education records, as specified in FERPA (see part 99.31 (a) (8)) and in the University "Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records" (part IV (B) (8)). FERPA does not require colleges and universities to grant such parental access. The University of Maryland does so as a matter of policy.

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How do I provide documentation of my student's dependent status?
Parents are normally asked to supply a copy of their most recent federal income tax forms to provide documentation of a student's dependent status.

How can I find out my student's grades?
Most parents ask their student directly. Doing so fosters trust and a sense of mutual responsibility. One convenient approach is to ask your student to give you a parent "PIN" number to access the University's Testudo interactive web service (http://www.testudo.umd.edu/ParentAccess.html). With the PIN you can access your student's grades, class schedules, student accounts, and unofficial transcripts. The parent access system is administered by the Office of the Registrar. Please call 301.314.8240 for additional information.

Also, as indicated in the answer to question eight, if your student declines to share grade information with you, the Registrar will give you access to his or her grades, if you can demonstrate that you claim the student as a dependent for federal tax purposes. Generally, when a parent seeks access to a student's education records (based on a claim of dependent status), the Registrar will notify the student and urge the student to supply the information directly.

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Will I be notified if my student is put on academic probation or is subject to academic dismissal?
No. Information about grades and academic standing is sent directly to students. You can, of course, ask your child to keep you informed about his academic performance, and you can gain immediate access to his academic records through use of a parents PIN. See the answer to question 10.

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Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger?
Part IV (B) (9) of the University "Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records" states that prior consent to disclosure of information from student education records will not be required when notice is made to "[a]ppropriate parties in connection with an emergency, where knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals." We normally consider parents as "appropriate parties" to notify in such emergencies. For example, if a student living in the residence halls were transported to the hospital in a life-threatening situation, every reasonable effort would be made by Resident Life staff to notify parents as soon as possible.

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Will I be notified if my student is hurt or in danger in a fraternity or sorority house?
Students living in fraternity and sorority houses have greater autonomy than students residing in residence halls, especially if the fraternity or sorority is located off campus. These facilities are managed by independent house corporations, which enter into individual lease agreements with students rather than the University. Nonetheless, the fraternity and sorority student officers and facilities managers are instructed to inform University personnel when a health or safety emergency occurs. Often these representatives of the group have already notified family members of the student involved. If Greek Life staff are aware of students in life threatening situations and parents have not already been contacted by health or safety personnel, they will make every effort to contact parents at that time.

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What if my student is hurt or in danger off-campus?
Generally, students are not subject to our control or supervision when they live and work off-campus. However, if we learn of an emergency involving one of our students, we will attempt to notify the student's parents, in accordance with our emergency notification policy and procedures. Hospitals and police agencies will also follow their own notification protocols.

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Will I be informed if my student is treated at the Health Center or is seeing a counselor in the Counseling Center?
Not normally. In addition to FERPA, state laws and professional ethical codes preclude the University from routinely sharing student medical information and counseling records with third parties, including parents, without the student's consent. There are important policy reasons supporting these confidentiality requirements, including the proven therapeutic benefits associated with encouraging students to talk openly and candidly with a physician or counselor - without fear their conversations will be reported to others.

Confidentiality, of course, is not absolute. It can be broken (and parents notified, as appropriate) if staff members in the Health or Counseling Centers determine that a student poses an imminent danger to self or to an identifiable third party.

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How will I know if my student is subject to University disciplinary action?
The University disciplinary system is administered by the Office of Student Conduct. Staff members routinely urge students to inform their parents if they are accused of any disciplinary offense. Students can also authorize release of all the information in their disciplinary files. A copy of the file can then be sent to a parent or legal guardian, upon request.

Dependent students facing disciplinary charges that could result in suspension or expulsion from the University will be asked to provide the Office of Student Conduct written confirmation that they have notified one of their parents.

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I have seen press reports about a new FERPA provision allowing notice to parents when a student violates drug or alcohol laws. What position has the University taken on this new rule?
Part 99.31 (a) (15) (i) of the FERPA regulations authorizes -- but does not require--disclosure to parents of "the student's violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if (A) The institution determines that the student has committed a disciplinary violation with respect to that use or possession; and (B) The student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure to the parent."

The University has not changed its privacy policy to permit such disclosure. However, as indicated in the answer to question sixteen, we will normally notify parents of dependent students if a student is facing a disciplinary charge that could result in suspension or expulsion.

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Will I be notified if my student becomes involved with controversial or harmful groups?
We endeavor to notify parents in emergencies, as defined in Part IV (B) (9) of the University "Policy and Procedures on the Disclosure of Student Education Records" (see the answer to question twelve). Affiliation with a "controversial" or "harmful" group would not normally qualify as such an emergency.

The University is a large, diverse community. Part of the collegiate experience is experimenting with ideas, friendships, and affiliations that may strike others as controversial or harmful. Courts even recognize a "right of association" in this regard, protected by the First Amendment. Most parents and teachers work hard to help young people develop better decision-making skills. That process continues in the university environment--both in the classroom and in our activities programming (including an effort to advise students about distinguishing between genuine and exploitive friends). Ultimately, however, adult students must be given considerable freedom to make their own choices and to learn from their own mistakes.

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Who can parents call if they have additional questions about student privacy rights at the University of Maryland?
Your questions usually can be answered by the department head where the relevant records are kept; otherwise, please contact Dr. Andrea Goodwin, Director of Student Conduct, at 301.314.8204.

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