The Family Policy Compliance Office is excited to announce the launch  of the new Student Privacy Website! This new website replaces both the Privacy Technical Assistance Center’s and the Family Policy Compliance Office’s sites.  The Student Privacy Website can be found at:  https://studentprivacy.ed.gov. Be sure to update your bookmarks accordingly!

Bryan Newton 10/01/15

The following comments are submitted on behalf of Wor-Wic Community College to the August 18, 2015 request for comments concerning the manner in which institutions of higher education maintain and release student medical records under FERPA:

The Department indicates that institutions “should not share student medical records with the institution’s attorneys or courts unless the litigation in question relates directly to the medical treatment itself or the payment for that treatment.”  While we agree that medical treatment and payment are two situations in which medical records should be shared, we can foresee others where a legitimate interest could necessitate disclosure of the records.  For example, a situation where a student brought a claim for injuries arising out of assault by an employee could turn on the student’s mental state and/or comments they shared that indicate the assault was provoked (thus possibly impacting any potential damages).  Keeping this information from the college’s attorneys would prejudice them in their efforts to build a reasonable defense.  

The Department should define a broader standard as to what information can be shared with a college’s attorneys, and/or define what the standards are for a court to determine when medical records should be released.  Protecting students’ reasonable expectations that conversations with medical and mental health professionals will be kept confidential should not compromise an institution’s ability to defend itself in litigation.

We agree with the Department’s continued statements regarding health and safety emergencies.  Institutions should continue to be able to take into account the totality of the circumstances when determining whether to release records in a health or emergency situation.

Bryan Newton
Vice President 
Enrollment Management and 
Student Services
Wor-Wic Community College