Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sharing Grades by Phone or E-mail

Due to Federal law, instructors at LCC are warned not to share grade information with students by phone or e-mail.

I recently found out (from correspondence with someone at the FERPA Family Policy Compliance Office) that this can be done legally with the proper written permission from the student.

This is nice to know. Students often want to know their grade information by phone or e-mail, or when absent they want their friends to being them back their graded work. Now I can put together a form to hand out the first day of each term, and be legally safe while also being more hospitable to students.

In practical terms, this written permission must include:
  • That the student is granting permission to receive grade information by phone, e-mail, or both
  • Which phone number and/or e-mail address to use
  • A comment (no response needed from the student) that e-mail addresses are not private because ISPs have the right to examine e-mail
  • When using the phone, whether grade information may be left as a phone message or if the student must receive it live
  • The signature of the student and the date
The first item is required because other types of permission may be granted. For example, a sick student may give an instructor written permission to send graded work home with a classmate. The "purpose of the disclosure" must be explicit in the written permission.

The second and third items are required because the instructor may only share the information with people for which the student has explicitly granted permission. The e-mail address the student has put in the college directory might be a shared e-mail address. Even if it is not a shared e-mail address, the student's internet service provider has the right to inspect the internet use of its clients. So grades can only be given out to the specific e-mail address given by the student on the permission form.

The fourth item is similar to the second, but for the phone. The instructor could leave a phone message with grade information (on an answering machine or with a person), but only with specific permission to do so.

The fifth information is legally necessary. The student must date his or her signature.