Ethics and Legal Standards

Legal Considerations

Before you recommend a student or release student information to potential employers, be sure you are aware of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 CFR Part 99) is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The law applies to all schools that receive funds under an applicable program of the U.S. Department of Education.
FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level. Students to whom the rights have transferred are “eligible students.”

  • Parents or eligible students have the right to inspect and review the student’s education records maintained by the school. Schools are not required to provide copies of records unless, for reasons such as great distance, it is impossible for parents or eligible students to review the records. Schools may charge a fee for copies.
  • Parents or eligible students have the right to request that a school correct records which they believe to be inaccurate or misleading. If the school decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student then has the right to a formal hearing. After the hearing, if the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent or eligible student has the right to place a statement with the record setting forth his or her view about the contested information.
  • Generally, schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student’s education record. However, FERPA allows schools to disclose those records, without consent, to the following parties or under the following conditions (34 CFR § 99.31):
    • School officials with legitimate educational interest;
    • Other schools to which a student is transferring;
    • Specified officials for audit or evaluation purposes;
    • Appropriate parties in connection with financial aid to a student;
    • Organizations conducting certain studies for or on behalf of the school;
    • Accrediting organizations;
    • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
    • Appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
    • State and local authorities, within a juvenile justice system, pursuant to specific State law.

Schools may disclose, without consent, “directory” information such as a student’s name, address, telephone number, date and place of birth, honors and awards, and dates of attendance. However, schools must tell parents and eligible students about directory information and allow parents and eligible students a reasonable amount of time to request that the school not disclose directory information about them. Schools must notify parents and eligible students annually of their rights under FERPA. The actual means of notification (special letter, inclusion in a PTA bulletin, student handbook, or newspaper article) is left to the discretion of each school.” (http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html)

Identification and Selection of Student Interns

Students are not the only one interested in their success; their accomplishments are also very important to the college. Staff members in Career Services, admissions, development, alumni relations, and you, the faculty, have a direct investment in their achievement. The role you play in the employment process complements the role played by Career Services. Occasionally, however, helping students in their internship and job searches can result in unanticipated illegal or unethical actions. (http://www.naceweb.org/legal/faculty_guide/)

Some of the guidelines for making sure that you stay within those legal and ethical parameters are as follows:

  1. All candidates should have equal access to the opportunity for open and free selection of employment opportunities consistent with their personal objectives and optimum use of their talents.
  2. Both colleges and employers should support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.
  3. All aspects of the recruiting process should be fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations.
  4. Career Services professionals and faculty involved in recruiting should provide generally comparable services to all employers, regardless of whether the employers contribute services, gifts, or financial support to the college, department, or office, and regardless of the level of such support.
  5. As required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), any disclosure of student information outside of the educational institution will be with prior consent of the student unless health and/or safety considerations necessitate the dissemination of such information. Both Career Services professionals and faculty will exercise sound judgment and fairness in maintaining the confidentiality of student information, regardless of the source, including written records, reports, and computer data bases.
  6. Any recruitment activities through student associations or academic departments should be conducted in accordance with the policies of the Career Services Office and accepted ethical, equal employment and legal practices.
Condensed from “A Faculty Guide to Ethical and Legal Standards in Student Hiring” NACE

The Principles for Professional Practice for Career Services & Employment Professionals document notes that colleges and employers share the common goal of “achieving the best match between the individual student and the employing organization.” The six essential precepts that serve as the foundation of this goal are:

  1. All candidates should have equal access to the opportunity for open and free selection of employment opportunities consistent with their personal objectives and optimum use of their talents.
  2. Both colleges and employers should support informed and responsible decision making by candidates.
  3. All aspects of the recruiting process should be fair and equitable to candidates and employing organizations.
  4. Career Services professionals and faculty involved in recruiting should provide generally comparable services to all employers, regardless of whether the employers contribute services, gifts, or financial support to the college, department, or office, and regardless of the level of such support.
  5. As required by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), any disclosure of student information outside of the educational institution will be with prior consent of the student unless health and/or safety considerations necessitate the dissemination of such information. Both Career Services professionals and faculty will exercise sound judgment and fairness in maintaining the confidentiality of student information, regardless of the source, including written records, reports, and computer data bases.
  6. Any recruitment activities through student associations or academic departments should be conducted in accordance with the policies of the Career Services Office and accepted ethical, equal employment and legal practices.

“If you or a colleague receive a job lead from an employer and choose only to refer a few individuals without publicizing the position to all students who may be qualified, you are not maintaining “a fair and equitable recruiting process.” Choosing to refer only a select group of students without providing an opportunity to all students may expose you to scrutiny.”

“By identifying individuals for employment on a “regular” basis, you may be considered an “employment agency” for purposes of compliance with equal employment opportunity laws. For example, if it appears as if you are referring only male students or only minority students, you may be open to charges of discrimination.”

“While it is lawful and ethical for you to assist employers in reaching out to minority groups, it is inappropriate for you to identify only those individuals you know to be members of a specific group. You have an obligation to provide a “fair” and open and inclusive system, i.e., one where all students have access to information about career opportunities.”

Condensed from “A Faculty Guide to Ethical and Legal Standards in Student Hiring,” National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE), http://www.naceweb.org/knowledge/legal/faculty-guide-student-hiring.aspx?terms=ferpa%20and%20employers Created June 2009. Current as of June 2012.