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Harvard Law School is committed to complying with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA; also known as the Buckley Amendment), which protects the privacy of student records. Although most information contained in a student’s educational record is confidential, some of that information is not considered to be harmful or an invasion of privacy if disclosed and is referred to as "directory information." FERPA prohibits schools from releasing information other than that designated as "directory information" without the student's permission.
The Registrars of the Harvard Schools developed a common University super-set of student information directory elements. The list can be found at http://www.security.harvard.edu/resources/references/ferpa-glossary-terms. Each Harvard School can use some or all of the data elements on this list in their own directories, but no School will include any data elements in their own directories that are not included in the University list. Harvard Law School has adopted this full list of elements to define directory information at HLS.
Students should be aware that the University does share both directory and other student information within the University with those individuals who have a legitimate educational interest in the information. In addition, the University can, and occasionally must under federal rules, share student information with people or organizations outside the University. (See http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/students.html for information about these types of information sharing.)
The University discloses education records without a student's prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official is a person employed by the University in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom the University has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using University employees or officials (such as an attorney, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the University.
Requesting a FERPA block
FERPA also gives a student the right to block public display of directory information. Schools are required to convey to students which information they classify as directory information and allow students and parents a reasonable amount of time to request that the School not disclose directory information about them (such a request is referred to at Harvard as a "FERPA block"). Those students requesting a “FERPA block” are asked to submit a written request to the Office of the Registrar before September 30 and should be aware of the substantial consequences of the block:
A FERPA block prohibits Harvard from acknowledging the student’s existence.
A FERPA block will prevent the student from being listed as having attended Harvard, and it will prevent Harvard from acknowledging that a student is currently enrolled at the University. The only exceptions involve the U.S. government, U.S. law enforcement, or Harvard officials with legitimate educational interest including the need to maintain School operation. In addition, a FERPA block will prevent a student from appearing in the printed University Commencement Program and from being listed in the online Harvard phone directory.
A FERPA block will remain in effect for continuing students and alumni until a written release has been received and processed by the Office of the Registrar.
Student Rights under FERPA
As set forth above, under both Harvard policy and FERPA, students and former students may inspect and review certain of their education records that are maintained by Harvard. They also have the right to: exercise limited control over other people’s access to their education records; seek to correct their education records if they believe them to be inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of their FERPA rights; file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education if they believe Harvard has not complied with the requirements of FERPA; and be fully informed of their rights under FERPA. Complaints regarding alleged violation of rights of students under FERPA may be submitted in writing within 180 days to the Family Policy Compliance Office, US Department of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202-5920.
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