Q&A: Starfish & FERPA
Director, Student Success Center
Aug. 21, 2017
Does Starfish violate FERPA?
The short answer is no, it does not.
What is FERPA?
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) 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. The law affords students specific rights, which include to inspect and review their educational records, to have their record amended and to have some control over the disclosure of information from their record.
As a faculty or staff member, how does FERPA apply to me?
Currently, all faculty and staff agree to abide by FERPA when signing documents with Human Resources through the onboarding process. All faculty and staff with access to student academic and/or personal records (electronic or paper-based) are responsible under FERPA to protect the privacy of these records and use record information only for legitimate educational or student support purposes.
Discussing or sharing a student's record with any school official (faculty, staff or administration) who does not have a “legitimate educational interest” is a violation of FERPA. Furthermore, written consent must be obtained from the student to share any information with a third party (including, but not limited to, parents, guardians, spouses and non-college employees).
How does Starfish comply with FERPA?
Starfish is the software tool that Weber State University purchased to assist with student retention and persistence to graduation. It is already in use at more than 300 institutions throughout the United States and takes FERPA seriously. Starfish takes data (educational records) that many of us already have access to through Banner, CatTracks, Lynx Self Service and/or Canvas and organizes the information in a way that we can collaborate and communicate across campus to help students succeed.
As with any software or database system used by the university, Starfish has been reviewed by the Information Security Office to ensure the system complies with information-related laws, regulation and policies.
Starfish gives schools the option to put a FERPA notification on many screens to remind faculty and staff of their duty to comply with FERPA. This feature has been activated for Weber State. Nonetheless, all who interact with student data should be vigilant of the policies and regulations surrounding FERPA.
In addition, levels of access to data within Starfish are role-based and closely mirror access that faculty and staff have already been granted through the provisioning process. This was done to ensure that users are only seeing the information pertinent to the role they have in relation to their student.
- Faculty teaching a course will only be able to raise or view concerns (or praises) about students in their course.
- Student support advisors will be able to see specific information about students assigned to their area.
- Faculty advisors and academic advisors will be able to see a holistic view of the students for those declared in areas in which they advise, similar to what they already are able to access.