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IS MY COLLEGE OR UNIVERSITY DISCIPLINARY RECORD PRIVATE? YES, BUT...

By Jonathan Cook

Disciplinary Files Are Part of Your Education Record Which Is Protected By The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA is a federal law promulgated to protect the privacy of students' education records.  

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In a nutshell, FERPA prohibits Colleges or Universities from releasing students' education records to third parties without consent, like other academic institutions following a student's application to transfer or potential employers following a student's application for employment. There are several exceptions to the "consent rule," which will be visited in depth in a follow up blog post. In the meantime, the Department of Education's FERPA guidance is an informative resource

BUT, Withholding Consent From Academic Institutions and potential Employers Is An Obvious Red Flag. The odds of being gaining acceptance or being hired in the above scenarios is almost impossible if students choose not to allow for the release of their education record. So yes, education records are protected, but that protection is useless under the most common of circumstances students find themselves in. 

Experienced Student Defense Lawyer For Record Expungement

However, a Skilled and Experienced Student Defense Lawyer Knows how Colleges and Universities Operate. And most importantly, how to best advocate within each school's unique records retention framework for expungement and even early expungement of certain disciplinary files from education records before it's time to apply for jobs or transfer to another College or University. 

A skilled and experienced Student Defense Attorney understands that record retention policies vary from one school to another depending on several factors. The vast majority of Public Colleges and Universities or "state schools" are not free to dictate their own records retention policies. This is because state schools are state actors and thus governed by the individual state's statute containing retention mandates. Sometimes state statutes can make expungement more difficult, but not impossible under certain circumstances. 

Private Colleges and Universities Are Not Subject to State Law and Are Free to Implement Their Own Record Retention Polices. Sometimes these polices are more favorable to a student than state laws, but not always. Because private school policies can be malleable, this is when an experienced student defense attorney is paramount because truly understanding how to use nuanced polices to a student's advantage can only come from years of negotiating in the trenches. 

Remember: although it is extremely important to hire an experienced Student Defense Attorney as early in Campus Disciplinary Proceedings as possible (as soon as a notice of charges is received, if not before), it is never too late. Whether a student has already been sanctioned and is in the appeals stage or even after an appeal has been denied, a lawyer with extensive experience representing and defending college students can offer invaluable help.

Jonathan Cook at New England Student Defense has represented over 150 students at Colleges and Universities nationwide from Yale University and Georgetown University to the University of Houston and Tulane University.  

These materials have been prepared by SRT for informational purposes only and are not intended and should not be construed as legal advice.

Jonathan Cook