Student Confidentiality and Privacy
The 1974 Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, also known as the Buckley Amendment, is a federal law (20 U.S.C. 1232g) that protects the privacy of a student’s educational record (currently enrolled or formerly enrolled regardless of their age). FERPA applies to all educational institutions receiving funds from the United States Department of Education, from kindergarten through university level. The law grants four specific rights to students:
- the right to see the information that Elizabethtown College has concerning the student;
- the right to seek amendment to those records and in certain cases append a statement to the record;
- the right to consent to disclosure of the student’s records; and,
- the right to file a complaint with the Department of Education Compliance Office in Washington, DC.
For more information about FERPA please see the Records and Registration web page.
FERPA protects the confidentiality of student records and specifies those limited situations in which information from educational records may be released without a student’s prior consent. The law permits Elizabethtown College, in its sole discretion, to disclose information without a student’s prior consent to parents or guardians of a financially dependent student (as defined by the Internal Revenue Service). If a student is not a financially dependent student and that student has not provided prior consent, the College is not permitted to disclose information, even to the student’s parents. However, if the College has knowledge of a student experiencing (1) a life-threatening situation or serious illness including one that requires emergency hospitalization, or (2) an act or threat of violence toward self or others or significant abuse of self or others, the Vice President of Student Life or members of the Student Life staff may contact that student’s parent or guardian with or without the student’s prior consent.
Parents or guardians of any student under 21 years of age may be notified of the following situations with or without the student’s prior consent:
- Alcohol or drug incident that results in emergency medical treatment;
- Alcohol or drug incident that results in police action;
- Violation of the College Alcohol/Drug Policy.
Whenever possible the Student Life staff discusses the implications of notification with the student before contacting the parent or guardian. Ideally, the student is encouraged to make the call and the Student Life Staff is available to assist with explanation of circumstances or to elaborate on pertinent college policy or practice.
The College may release publicly the name, nature of the violation and the student conduct sanction for any student who is found in violation of a College policy that is classified as a crime of violence: arson, burglary, robbery, criminal homicide, sex offenses (including rape, forcible fondling, statutory rape, and incest), assault, destruction/damage/vandalism of property and kidnapping/abduction. The College will release this information to the complainant or next of kin, if complainant is deceased, in any of these offenses regardless of the outcome.
Student conduct records are expunged seven years after graduation, voluntary withdrawal, disciplinary suspension or expulsion from the College.
The College respects the privacy of the student at all times, but reserves the right to take necessary measures should there be a reason to believe College policies have been violated or the safety and well-being of the campus community may be compromised. In most cases, prior to a search of the student’s residence, personal belongings, or registered vehicle, the College will seek cooperation from the student. However, in cases involving local law enforcement investigations or when the College must quickly and confidentially proceed with a search in order to protect the safety of others, the College reserves the right to search without the student’s prior consent.
Residence Access and Authorized Search
Authorized college officials may enter residences owned or leased by the College. These spaces include rooms in traditional residence halls and the bedrooms and shared living spaces in college-owned and leased apartments and townhouses. Student residences may be entered at any time for purposes of routine maintenance, repair, and health or safety inspections, or in response to any emergency situation.
VISUAL INSPECTION: In cases when the College believes a policy or regulation is being violated, the College official may enter the student’s residence to conduct a preliminary visual inspection. Any prohibited items in clear view may be seized by the College officials.
ADMINISTRATIVE SEARCH: The VP of Student Life or a designated Student Life Administrator on Call, or the President, may authorize a thorough administrative search of the student’s residence. An administrative search will be conducted by a Campus Security Officer and witnessed by a Residence Life professional. Any prohibited items discovered during an administrative search may be seized by Campus Security.
Whenever prohibited items are seized an official inventory will be prepared. A copy of the inventory will be available to the student for review. A photo of each item may also be taken as further documentation of the search. Prohibited items will be disposed of according to the policies of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Campus Security.
Search of Personal Belongings
The College reserves the right to inspect any abandoned personal property found in public areas owned or leased by the College. For example, if an unattended backpack is found in the lobby of a residence hall, a Campus Security Officer may open the bag and inspect the contents. Campus Security Officers may also inspect a student’s personal belongings if there is reason to believe College policy has been violated or the safety and well-being of the college community may be compromised. For example, a student is involved in an alcohol policy incident and the responding personnel notice the student’s backpack is wet and there is an odor of alcohol on the bag. In this case, the responding officer may inspect the contents of the backpack without the student’s consent.
Search of Registered Vehicles
The College reserves the right to inspect any vehicle registered with Campus Security if there is reason to believe College policy has been violated or safety and well-being of the campus community may be compromised.