Federal law, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), protects the privacy of student "education" records — which generally includes information maintained by Penn that identifies a student. Students should be aware of their rights under FERPA and faculty and staff should be aware of and follow their obligations under FERPA.
The University’s policy regarding disclosure of student information to parents is based both upon legal requirements and the University’s philosophy that students should be treated as adults. The University generally will not share personally identifiable information (other than directory information) from a student’s education records with third parties, including parents or guardians, without student consent, except in limited circumstances where such disclosure is permitted under FERPA (described below) and where the University determines in its discretion that disclosure is appropriate. Disclosure is permitted:
1. In connection with an emergency if knowledge of the information is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or other individuals.
2. To the parent or legal guardian of a student under the age of 21, information regarding the student’s violation of a University policy governing the use or possession of alcohol or drugs.
3. To a person who submits a written affirmation that he or she is the parent or legal guardian of a student and that the student is a dependent within the meaning of Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954.
4. In other limited circumstances as allowed under FERPA and its implementing regulations, as they may be amended.
In cases involving a health or safety emergency or a violation of a University policy regarding the use or possession of alcohol or drugs, a decision to notify parents or guardians about information contained in an education record—and the actual communications to the parents or guardians—will be made by the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life or another senior student affairs officer, in each case after consultation with the student’s school office and other appropriate offices. Whenever practicable, a student whose parents or guardians are to be notified will be informed before such notification occurs and given an opportunity to initiate contact with his or her parents or guardians.
In today’s world, it is important for students and families to understand and discuss risks to personal privacy, and ways to minimize those risks. Penn offers programs that give students choices regarding when and with whom their personal information is shared. See the Student Registration and Financial Services Must-Do List for more information.