Confidentiality of Student Records
In accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (Buckley Amendment), Athens Technical College accords all rights under the law to students who are declared independent. Congress designed the act to protect the privacy of educational records and to establish the rights of students to inspect and review their non-privileged educational records. The act also provides guidelines for the correction of inaccurate or misleading data through informal or formal hearings. Students have the right to file complaints with the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by the institution to comply with the act. Athens Technical College also provides a mechanism whereby students may file complaints within the college.
The college informs students about the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 annually by publication in the Catalog and Student Handbook, as well as, via e-mail to their @student.athenstech.edu accounts each fall term. The college also notifies students of their rights during the New Student Orientation. This policy applies to current and former students of Athens Technical College.
The Office of Registration and Records maintains and safeguards student academic records. The college preserves all official current and former student records, and these records are private and confidential. College personnel may maintain separate record files for the following categories: academic, medical, psychiatric/counseling, financial and financial aid, placement, disciplinary, and veterans affairs. The vice president for student affairs shall maintain records of disciplinary action.
Educational records include any records (in handwriting, print, tapes, film, computer, or other medium) maintained by the college or the Technical College System of Georgia that are directly relate to a student except:
- A personal record kept by a faculty or staff member if it is kept in the sole possession of the maker of the record, is not accessible or revealed to any other person except a temporary substitute of the maker of the record, and is not used for purposes other than a memory or reference tool. Records that contain information taken directly from a student or that are used to make decisions about the student are not covered by this exception.
- Records created and maintained by a technical college law enforcement unit for law enforcement purposes.
- An employment record of an individual whose employment is not contingent on the fact that he or she is a student.
- Records made or maintained by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional or paraprofessional if the records are used only for treatment of a student an made available only to those persons providing the treatment.
- Alumni records that contain information about a student after he or she is no longer in attendance at the university and which do not relate to the person as a student.
Student Access to Records
Students have the right to review their official academic record, disciplinary record, and financial aid record with the following exceptions:
- Any and all documents to which access has been waived by the student.
- Any and all records which are excluded from the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act's definition of educational records.
- Any and all financial data and income tax forms submitted in confidence by the student’s parents in connection with an application for, or receipt of, financial aid.
- Any and all records connected with an application to attend a Technical College if the applicant never enrolled.
- Those records that contain information on more than one student. The requesting student has the right to view only those portions of the record that pertain to his or her own educational records.
All requests shall be directed to the registrar's office at the student's technical college. Requests to review student records will be granted as soon as practicable, but in no event later than 45 days after the date of request. No documents or files may be altered or removed once a request has been filed. A student may receive a copy of any and all records to which he or she has lawful access upon payment of any copying charge established by TCSG or the technical college except when a hold has been placed on his or her record pending the payment of debts owed the technical college, or when he or she requests a copy of a transcript, the original of which is held elsewhere.
Hearings to Challenge Accuracy of Records
If, upon inspection and review of his or her record, the student believes that the record is inaccurate, misleading or otherwise in violation of his or her privacy rights, he or she has the right to ask that the record be changed or insert a statement in the file. Such request shall be submitted in writing to the registration and records office at the student's technical college.
The registration and records office shall process the student’s request and notify the student of the technical college's decision in writing. Should the request for a change be denied, the student will be notified of the technical college's decision and advised of the right to a hearing to challenge the information believed to be inaccurate, misleading or in violation of the student's privacy rights. The student has 30 days to appeal the decision to the president and ask for a hearing.
On behalf of the president of the technical college, a hearing officer shall conduct a hearing at which the student shall be afforded a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the issues raised in the original request to amend the student's education records. The student maybe assisted by one or more individuals, including an attorney. The hearing officer will consider only challenges to the accuracy of the records. Hence, whether or not a grade has been incorrectly recorded on a student's transcript may be considered but not whether the student should have been awarded a grade different from the one given.
The hearing officer shall prepare a written decision based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing. The decision will include a summary of the evidence presented and the reasons for the decision. The decision of the hearing officer shall be final, save for any review that may be granted by the president of the technical college.
If the technical college decides that the challenged information is not inaccurate, misleading or in violation of the student's right of privacy, it will notify the student of the right to place in the education record a statement commenting on the challenged information and a statement setting forth reasons for disagreeing with the decision. Such a statement shall become a part of the information contained in the education record and will be disclosed with it.
A student may make a specific waiver of access to evaluations solicited and/or received under condition of confidentiality.
Release of Information
Athens Technical College will disclose information from educational records only with the written consent of students. The college may release educational records without written consent of students when disclosure is to college officials who have legitimate educational interests in the records. A college official is:
- A person employed by the college in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position, including health and medical staff.
- A person appointed to the technical college's Board of Directors.
- A person employed by or under contract to the college (such as an attorney or auditor) to perform a special task.
- A person employed by college security.
- A student serving on official committees such as disciplinary or grievance committees or who is assisting technical college officials in performing their tasks.
College officials have legitimate educational interests if they are:
- Performing tasks specified in their position descriptions or contract agreements.
- Performing tasks related to students' educations.
- Performing tasks related to the discipline of students.
- Providing services or benefits relating to students or their families such as health care, counseling, job placement, or financial aid.
- Maintaining the safety and security of the campus.
The college may release educational records without written consent of students when disclosure is:
- To officials of other schools, upon request, in which students seek or intend to enroll. Students shall receive notification of the disclosure unless they initiated the disclosure.
- To authorized representatives of the Comptroller General of the United States, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education, authorized representatives of the Attorney General for law enforcement purposes, or state and local educational authorities (subject to the conditions set forth in 34 C.F.R. §99.35).
- To officials of the college, Technical College System of Georgia, or lending institutions in connection with financial aid for which students submitted applications or for which they received if the information is necessary for such purposes as to:
- Determine eligibility for the aid.
- Determine the amount of the aid.
- Determine the conditions for the aid.
- Enforce the terms and conditions of the aid.
- To state and local officials or authorities pursuant to the state statute adopted prior to November 19, 1974, that specifically requires the reporting or disclosure of such information if the allowed reporting or disclosure concerns the juvenile justice system and the system's ability to effectively serve students whose records the college releases. The college may also release or report information to state and local officials or authorities pursuant to a state statute adopted after 1974 which concerns the juvenile justice system and the system's ability to effectively serve, prior to adjudication, students whose records the college releases. Nothing in this paragraph shall prevent the state from further limiting the number or type of state or local officials who will continue to have access to student records.
- To organizations conducting studies for, or on behalf of, educational agencies or institutions for the purpose of developing, validating, or administering predictive tests, administering student aid programs, and improving instruction. The college will release information only if organizations conduct such studies in ways that will not permit the personal identification of students and their parents by persons other than representatives of such organizations, and the organizations will destroy such information when they no longer need the information for the original stated purposes or projects.
- To accrediting organizations in order to carry out their accrediting functions.
- To parents of dependent students as defined in Section 152 of the Internal Revenue Code of 1954. Parents must provide copies of their most recent federal income tax returns establishing the dependency of the students. The college shall give full rights under the act to either parent unless the institution receives evidence that a court order, state statute, or legally binding document relating to such matters as divorce, separation, or custody specifically revokes those rights.
- To appropriate parties to protect the health and safety of the student or other individuals in emergencies with the understanding that the college will release only that information that is essential to the emergency.
- To comply with judicial orders or lawfully issued subpoenas provided the college makes a reasonable effort to notify students of the orders or subpoenas in advance of compliance. The college cannot notify students if it receives federal grand jury subpoenas or any other subpoenas that state that the college should not notify students. The custodian of the records shall consult the director of legal services at the Technical College System of Georgia prior to the release of the record.
- To alleged victims of any crime of violence as Section 16 of Title 18 of the United States Code defines that term or a non-forcible sex offense regarding the final results of any disciplinary proceedings conducted by the technical college against alleged perpetrators of those crimes or offenses with respect to those crimes or offenses. The custodian of the records shall consult the director of legal services at the Technical College System of Georgia prior to the release of the record.
- To Veterans Administration Officials pursuant to 38 USC §3690.
- To the court those records that are necessary to defend the college when students initiate legal action against the college and/or the Technical College System of Georgia.
- To any parent or legal guardian of students under the age of 21. If the college determines that there is a violation of any federal, state, or local law or any rule or policy of the technical college governing the use or possession of alcohol or a controlled substance if the institution determines that students committed disciplinary violations with respect to such use or possession.
- The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act ("FERPA"), a Federal law, requires that TCSG and its technical colleges, with certain exceptions, obtain a student's written consent prior to the disclosure of personally identifiable information from that student's education records. however, TCSG or its technical colleges, may disclose appropriately designated "directory information" without written consent unless the student has advised TCSG or the technical college to the contrary. Public Directory information, which is information that is generally not considered harmful or an invasion of privacy if released, can also be disclosed to outside organizations without the student's prior written consent. If a student does not want TCSG or the technical college to disclose directory information from his or her student education records without prior written consent, the student must notify TCSG or the technical college where he or she id enrolled, in writing, by the first day of the semester at the registrar's office at his or her technical college. A student need only file this notification once during his or her enrollment. However, if there is a break in enrollment or transfer to another TCSG technical college, a new notification must be filed. Even if a student elects to prohibit the release of director information, TCSG or the technical college may still implement policies requiring the student t wear or present a student ID badge. The custodian of the records will determine whether a legitimate educational interest exists on a case-by-case basis. When the custodian has any questions regarding the request, the custodian should withhold disclosure unless the custodian obtains consent from the student or obtains the concurrence of a supervisor or other appropriate official to release the record.
The Technical College System of Georgia and its technical colleges define "public directory information" as follows:
- Full name of student
- Major and field(s) of study
- Enrollment Status (full time, part-time, etc.)
- Degrees and awards and date received
- Dates of attendance
- Participation in official sports and activities
- Height and weight of athletic team members
The Technical college System of Georgia and its technical colleges define “non-public directory information” as follow:
- Email address
- Telephone Number
Non-public directory information is not available to the public, but is available to any college official. If the student has indicated to restrict their data, then college officials can only access the information when it is needed for educational purposes.
Additionally, certain state and federal laws require the release of certain student information without prior notification to the student.
The college shall maintain a record of requests for and/or disclosures of information for educational records. The record will indicate the name of the party making the request and what records, if any, that person received, the legitimate interest in the records, any additional party to whom the original requestor may disclose information, and the legitimate interest the additional party has in requesting or obtaining the information. Students may review this record. The college does not have to maintain these records if the request was from or the disclosure was to:
- The student.
- A school official determined to have a legitimate educational interest.
- A party with written consent from the student.
- A party seeking directory information.
- A federal grand jury or law enforcement agency pursuant to a subpoena that by its terms requires nondisclosure.