Family Access to Student Information
Helpful Information for Parents, Guardians, Partners, and Spouses
Lewis & Clark College acknowledges the challenges that exist in responding to the needs of students and their families1 - particularly parents, guardians, and partners - with respect to educational records2 and related information. A fundamental goal of the college is to support students as they take responsibility for their lives and learning experience. This goal is supported by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which provides the legal foundation for recognizing the rights of individual students in higher education to access their own educational records, and limit third-party access to these records, regardless of the college student’s age. In short, under FERPA, non-directory information generally cannot be released to third parties—including parents/guardians/partners—without the student’s written consent. Disclosure of information from treatment records (e.g., in the Health Service and Counseling Service) is even more tightly limited by Oregon law.
Lewis & Clark also understands that family support for students is one key to student success in college. We recognize that many family members have an understandable interest in knowing about their student’s academic progress, co-curricular engagement, financial aid, account balances, and other information.
We believe the tension between students’ right to privacy and family members’ interest in their student’s college experience is best navigated through direct communication between students and family members. We encourage parents/guardians/partners and their students to discuss expectations for information sharing and privacy regarding grades, academic progress, co-curricular engagement, financial aid, account balances, and other information prior to enrollment and to revisit this discussion on a periodic basis. Generally, a student will be required to sign a consent form before the college will share information related to these areas with family members.
When will the college notify parents/guardians/partners of a concern?
FERPA does allow for certain exceptions to the requirement for written student consent in order for information to be disclosed to third parties. Consistent with FERPA, the college may notify parents, guardians, or partners without a student’s consent:
- When the college determines a student health or safety emergency exists (e.g. danger to self or others) and family engagement is needed to support the student.
- When a student under the age of 21 has been found in violation of the college code of conduct relating to the use of alcohol or a controlled substance. In the majority of these cases, the college works directly with the student without involving parents, guardians, or partners. However, the college may involve parents, guardians, or partners when direct engagement with the student has not been effective in changing the student’s use of drugs/alcohol; when the student is facing disciplinary suspension related to alcohol or drug use; or when the student has been arrested.
The Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students, or designee, uses professional judgment when determining whether notifying parents, guardians, or partners under the two criteria above is essential and benefits student welfare. Whenever possible, college staff will talk with the student before contacting a parent/guardian/partner in order to discuss the possible benefits and challenges of notification, and may encourage the student to notify family members directly.
For a full review of college policy related to disclosure of student information to third parties, please see the Lewis & Clark FERPA policy.3
1 For the purposes of this document, the term “family” refers to parents, guardians, partners, or spouses.
2 See the Lewis & Clark FERPA Policy for definitions of educational records and directory information, along with related information.
3 Questions about exceptions to the Lewis & Clark FERPA policy should be addressed to the Registrar’s Office for the College of Arts and Sciences, the Law School, or the Graduate School of Education and Counseling.