3.06 Dissemination of Confidential Information
3 October 2018
Executive Director, Human Resources or University Registrar
This policy applies to faculty, teachers, staff, and students in all offices and divisions of Gallaudet University.
There are properly established procedures for the accumulation and custody of information at Gallaudet. Information resources of the University are the property of the University, and all employees assigned responsibility for and entrusted with confidential information are expected to maintain the data with a high degree of security. A limited amount of confidential information can be released as long as no laws are violated (e.g., FERPA and HIPAA) and it can be reasonably determined that the requesting party, either internal or external, has a bona fide reason for accessing the information. Employees at Gallaudet should contact their unit administrator if they have any questions regarding release of information. Inappropriate disclosure of confidential information could lead to termination of employment. Administrators, faculty, teachers, and staff will sign a "Confidentiality Agreement" during the start of each fiscal year indicating that they understand their responsibility to the University to safeguard confidential information.
The procedures contained in this policy apply to the release of personnel and payroll information from Human Resources Services and to the release of student information.
Gallaudet University Administration
Information disseminated from Human Resources Services usually follows the procedures outlined below. Requests regarding work performance are normally referred to the appropriate supervisor. If a supervisor prefers not to provide a reference, the information described below is provided by Human Resources Services. Information for the University directory is not controlled by this policy.
Requests for information on employees and former employees are normally received from the following:
- Government Agencies (Federal, State, Municipal)
- Potential Employers
- Credit Granting Institutions
- Law Enforcement Authorities
- Gallaudet University Internal Sources
- Human Resources Services responds to requests for employment verification by stating the dates of employment, department where employed, position held, and where applicable, reason for separation. Questions regarding reason for separation are usually answered as resigned, retired, laid-off, non-reappointed, appointment ended, terminated for poor performance, or terminated for gross misconduct. Questions regarding salary are answered when authorized by the employee.
- Personal information, such as salary, home address, and telephone number, is provided: to authorized government agencies (e.g., IRS, Office of Unemployment Compensation, Office of Workers' Compensation); to properly identified law enforcement authorities; in response to a lawfully issued administrative summons or judicial order; in compelling circumstances affecting the immediate health or safety of the individual; or if necessary to protect the safety and security of the campus community or property.
- Unless terminated for gross misconduct, requests for rehire eligibility are normally answered: "Consideration will be given at the time of application." Unless the appointment has a definite end date, questions concerning the probability of continued employment are normally answered: "At this time, the employee has a reasonable expectation for continued employment."
- Inquiries originating within Gallaudet are answered by Human Resources Services only if it can be established that the requestor has a work-related need for the information.
- Decisions regarding release of personnel information not covered 1 through 4 above are made by the Director of Human Resources or the Vice President for Administration and Finance.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974
FERPA is a Federal law that protects the privacy of student education records. The Act prescribes under what circumstances and to whom student records may be released. It gives students the right to review their educational records, the right to request a correction to any record they believe is inaccurate, and the right to limit the disclosure of information from their records. Gallaudet's failure to comply with FERPA could cause the withdrawal of federal funds by the Department of Education.
The Act applies to: (1) persons who are taking or have taken courses/classes at Gallaudet University, including students at the Clerc Center, for whom an educational record has been established; (2) all educational records maintained in files, documents, databases, etc., including, but not limited to, class schedules, grades, GPA, test scores, academic standing, and transcripts; and (3) personally identifiable information, including, but not limited to, the student's name, Social Security number, residency status, gender, religious preference, and race/ethnicity, that is contained in files, documents, databases, and other sources containing information from which students can be identified.
FERPA does NOT apply to: (1) admissions applications; (2) confidential letters of recommendation placed in the student's file after January 1, 1975; (3) faculty, teacher, or staff personal notes and records that are not shared with other people except someone who may be temporarily substituting for that person; (4) records of the Department of Public Safety; (5) records of employees (the law does not apply to records of students who are secondarily employees, e.g., work-study students); (6) records created or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional, when these records are used solely in connection with the provision of treatment; and (7) records which contain only information about a person after he/she has left Gallaudet (e.g., alumni records).
- Students have the right to inspect their own official records. Corrections or challenges to records may be presented by the student in writing to the office maintaining the record. Each office responsible for an official student record must have a procedure for how and when students may read, copy, and if necessary, challenge information in the record.
- Gallaudet University personnel who need particular information in order to perform their assigned duties may have access to student records.
- Disclosure of information contained in student records to other persons or agencies is prohibited without the consent of the student (or parent/legal guardian if the student is under the age of 18 and has not been admitted to a post-secondary program) with the following exceptions: (a) information from a student record will be released upon written request of the student; (b) directory information may be released to anyone upon request (students who do not wish this information to be available may request in writing to have their name removed from the directory); (c) the University must release official records upon subpoena or court order (the University will attempt to notify the student that the records are being released); (d) information from student records will be shared with auditors inspecting the operations of Gallaudet University offices; (e) information from student records may be released to parents or legal guardians who financially support a student (under IRS regulations); (f) information from student records may be released to persons or organizations providing financial aid for a student, or evaluating a student's eligibility for financial aid; (g) information from student records may be released to other school officials if the student is transferring.
- Personally identifiable information may be accessed without prior written consent in some situations by University personnel with a legitimate educational interest, by certain government officials, in compliance with a judicial order or subpoena, or in a health or safety emergency.
Only information directly related to the education process is maintained in student records. Official student records do not include references to political or social beliefs and practices. Students may list membership in professional associations, honorary societies, or student activities as part of their student record. Memberships in other organizations not listed by the student will not be included in student records.
Medical records, mental health records, and parents' financial statements are not subject to FERPA. These records are subject to applicable laws of the District of Columbia and the Federal Government that make them legally confidential or privileged. These records cannot be reviewed by or released to anyone except as provided by these applicable laws.