The best approach is to ask your student directly. Communicating with young adults isn’t always easy. They may not be as forthcoming as we would like. The college years, however, are a period of remarkable growth and maturation. The ability and willingness of students to share information and insights usually grows, especially as they acquire the confidence that comes with assuming greater responsibility for their own lives.

Yes. Like other colleges and universities across the country, Butler University is subject to a federal law called the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called “FERPA” or the “Buckley Amendment”). FERPA sets privacy standards for student educational records and requires institutions to publish a compliance statement, including a statement of related institutional policies.

FERPA is enforced by the U.S. Department of Education. The Department maintains a FERPA website.

The privacy protection FERPA gives to students is very broad. With limited exceptions, the FERPA regulations gives privacy protection to all student “education records.” Education records are defined as “[t]hose records that are directly related to a student and [are] [m]aintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution.” Examples of student records entitled to FERPA privacy protection are grade reports, transcripts, and most disciplinary files.

Unless personally identifiable information from a student’s education record falls under a specified exception, the information cannot be released to third parties (including parents) without signed and dated written consent from the student.

There’s a detailed list of exceptions in the FERPA regulations. Schools may release educational records without permission as below:

  • To school officials with legitimate educational interest;
  • To other schools to which a student is transferring;
  • To comply with a judicial order or lawfully issued subpoena;
  • To appropriate officials in cases of health and safety emergencies; and
  • In conduct cases that involve violations of alcohol & drug policies when the student is under 21.

Under FERPA, the access rights that parents and legal guardians had in the elementary and secondary school setting are transferred to students, once a student has turned eighteen, or is attending any post-secondary educational institution.

FERPA regulations authorizes—but does not require—disclosure to parents of “the student’s violation of any Federal, State, or local law, or of any rule or policy of the institution, governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if—(A) The institution determines that the student has committed a conduct violation with respect to that use or possession; and (B) The student is under the age of 21 at the time of the disclosure to the parent.”

The vice president for student affairs or designee has the authority to notify parents or guardians when students under the age of 21 are found to have committed violations of University policies related to the possession, use, or distribution of alcohol or drugs. The notification is permissive and at the discretion of the University. The notification of parents is indicated when: (1) the violation involved harm or threat of harm to persons or property; (2) the violation involved an arrest in which the student was taken into custody; (3) the violation resulted in the student being suspended from the University and/or dismissed from residence halls; (4) the student has shown a pattern of violations – even if they are minor. Two or more violations associated with alcohol use would be reasonable cause for notice; (5) the student who committed the violation became physically ill and/or required medical intervention because of consumption of alcohol and/or drugs; and/or (6) the violation involved the possession of drugs.