Confidentiality / Privacy Issues

  1. According to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974, enacted as Section 438 of the General Education Provisions Act, student information that is considered “private” cannot be shared with anyone who is not designated on a release of confidential information form that has been signed by the student. Examples of confidential information disclosures include disabilities, recovering substance abuse condition, medical information including AIDS/HIV. If the student discloses any condition or disability that falls under the Privacy Act, the disclosed information cannot be shared with anyone without a release of confidential information form, including all appropriate signatures.
  2. Every program receiving state or federal adult education funds will have proper release forms for release and/or transferal of confidential information.
  3. No confidential information or any other assessment information regarding a student can be shared externally for referrals or recommended testing without a signed release of information form specifying the agency representative or diagnostician to whom the information is to be released.
  4. Standards for release forms:
    • Release forms must be on agency letterhead.
    • Information to be released must be specified.
    • Individuals/organizations to whom information is to be released must be specified.
    • A validation statement must be included on the release form,  For example, “This release of confidential information is only valid from the date of signature to (specify ending date) or until canceled by the undersigned in writing.  I understand the information will be kept confidential and will not be shared with any other agency without my consent.  This release form has been read and/or reviewed with me and I understand its content.”
  5. No student information will be transferred unless appropriate release forms have been completed and are on file. Faxing and other electronic transfer methods (e.g. e-mail, Internet, telephone) are not permissible for transfer of confidential information.
  6. No confidential information regarding a student can be shared with the internal program’s teaching, support, or administrative staff without a release of information form signed by the student or parent/guardian when appropriate.
  7. Any documentation containing disclosures of disabilities or otherwise confidential information will be separated from routine student information and kept in a locked and secure filing cabinet.
  8. Filing cabinets containing confidential information will remain locked, will be inaccessible to students or support staff, and will have a log filed foremost in each locked drawer upon which entries will be made when confidential files are accessed by any instructional or administrative staff. Log sheets should include, at a minimum, date of file entry, name of student’s file accessed, name of staff member accessing file, and actions taken.
  9. Confidential information files will be maintained at the local program level for a period of not less than five years. Local policies may extend this period.
  10. During program evaluations by adult education evaluation teams, other accrediting agencies or designated evaluators, the following procedures will be followed:
    • Evaluators will check the physical security of confidential filling cabinet(s).
    • Evaluators will randomly select files contained in the confidential filing cabinet to monitor the program’s ability to appropriately address and maintain confidential/private information.
    • Evaluators will not read for detail nor otherwise extract any student information from confidential file folders.
    • Any information of a confidential nature that a student discloses, whether upon initial intake, during academic assessments, through information assessments, inventories, checklists, or writing exercises should be separated from routine paperwork and filed in the confidential file.