Student Disciplinary Records
A Primer on Student Records and the Release of Disciplinary Records
The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, commonly known as FERPA, is a federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. Students have specific, protected rights regarding access, amendment, and release of such records and FERPA requires that institutions adhere strictly to these guidelines.
With some important exceptions (examples listed below), virtually all information directly related to a student and maintained by the college (or by a person acting on behalf of the college) is considered part of the student’s educational record. The following is a list of some of the more common elements of an educational record:
- Grades and transcripts
- Student schedules
- Records of student discipline
- Personal information such as social security number, age, or birthdate
- Notes a faculty or staff member has taken during an advising session or other meeting with the student
The following are not considered educational records:
- Private notes of an individual faculty or staff member ("sole possession" records)
- Community safety records not shared with staff outside community safety
- Medical records (unless those medical records are disclosed to someone other than "those persons providing treatment")
- Aggregate (statistical) data that contains no personally identifiable information about any student.
The contents of an educational record may appear in a variety of forms, such as:
- Handwritten documents
- Computer files
- Computer screen images
- Records of a verbal exchange
When a legitimate educational interest exists, prior written consent is not required when disclosure is made directly to the student or to school officials within the same institution. Records may be released outside the institution by permission of the student, and in other cases as defined by FERPA and Reed’s policies (see release of information in the Guidebook)
Institutions do not need prior written consent to disclose information where the health and safety of the student is at issue, when complying with a lawful judicial order or subpoena, or where, as a result of a crime of violence, a disciplinary hearing was conducted by the school, a final decision was recorded, and the alleged victim seeks disclosure.
Disclosure of Student Disciplinary Records for Violations Including Alcohol and Other Drugs (AOD)
The terms disciplinary file and disciplinary record can be misleading, as all records of disciplinary action (excluding personal files of school officials and community safety records not shared with staff outside community safety) are part of student education records as defined above. That said, there is an important distinction in the way that Reed provides access to the information in a student’s education record pertaining to disciplinary actions.
It is not unusual for potential employers or another educational institutions (undergraduate or graduate school) to inquire as to whether a student has been the subject of disciplinary action for misconduct while at Reed. Generally, we would release in response to such a request only those records that
- pertain to honor cases in which a violation of policy and/or the Honor Principle is found and a sanction results;
- represent documentation of an agreement between the dean of students or the dean’s designee and a student regarding that student’s conduct and the associated disciplinary action;
- represent documentation from the dean of students or the dean’s designee of student conduct that has not been formally adjudicated or agreed upon as in item 2 above, but for which the dean has sufficient evidence so as to constitute proof or an admission of said conduct. In such cases, the dean generally informs the student of the intention to create such documentation, invites the student to discuss the issue prior to creating the record, and invites the student to include in the record a comment regarding the documentation.
Letters issued to students in response to minor violations of the Drug and Alcohol Policy, for example, while part of a student's education record, generally are not referred to as a disciplinary action and are not released in response to such inquiries.
A student who violates the Drug and Alcohol Policy and is issued a letter, but does not go before the Judicial Board related to that violation generally may truthfully and honorably answer “no” when asked by a graduate school or potential employer whether she or he had been the subject of disciplinary action at Reed, unless there is an agreement or other documentation as described above in items 2 and 3. However, if the student goes through an Honor case and is sanctioned, an honest answer to the disciplinary action question would be “yes.” In most such cases, a summary of the Honor case and Judicial Board sanction would be included in the dean's report that graduate schools and employers request when a student reports having been the subject of disciplinary action at Reed.
While Reed generally follows the above approach, there are some potential exceptions. For example, if there is clear evidence of dangerous or violent behavior that does not result in an Honor case because the student leaves Reed before the Judicial Board can hear the case we may still include information about the incident in the educational record.