There are federal laws that protect the rights of students, staff, and faculty members of United States colleges and universities. These are your barriers, your safeguards, and your patrol officers helping you safely across the bridge toward graduation. Here are some of the most important terms and resources you should know about:
∘The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) is a federal law that gives parents or legal guardians the right to access their child’s education records. These rights include having records corrected/changed when needed as well as controlling what kinds of personally identifiable information can be shared. These records include information such as grades, transcripts, class lists, student course schedules, health records (at the K-12 level), financial information (at the college or university level), and student discipline files. However, once a child turns eighteen years old or once a child of any age enters a college or university, parents no longer have these rights; only the student will have access to their own education records. Students can often submit an educational release of records form that lists specific people (including their parents) who are allowed to access their information. However, submitting this form is optional; a university student’s information is private by default.
•Office of Civil Rights
∘The United States Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR) has many responsibilities to protect students. Four of the most critical areas in which the OCR protects students include discrimination against race/color/national origin, against a person’s sex, against people with disabilities, and against people of certain ages. In schools, libraries, museums, or other educational programs that receive federal funding, discriminating against any of these groups is against federal civil rights laws. Key issue areas include recruitment, admissions, counseling, financial aid, athletics, discipline, and employment. These key issue areas are identified using the following terms:
•Title VI, or “Title Six”: Title VI specific key issue areas include racial harassment, school segregation, and denial of language services to English learners.
•Title IX, or “Title Nine”: Title IX specific key issue areas include sex-based harassment, failure to provide equal opportunity in athletics, discrimination in a school’s science/technology/engineering/math (STEM) courses and programs, discrimination against pregnant and parenting students, and single-sex education.