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Dear Colleague Letter, August 18, 2015: Obligations Under FERPA

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On Tuesday, August 18, 2015, Kathleen M. Styles, Chief Privacy Officer at the U.S. Department of Education issued a new Dear Colleague Letter to "to school officials at institutions to remind them of their obligations under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. § 1232g and the regulations in 34 C.F.R. Part 99, to protect students' education records from disclosure without consent, and to provide guidance more specifically on the disclosure of student medical records." Ms. Styles clarifies the differences between "medical record", "treatment record" and "education record", and examines several exceptions under which medical records may be disclosed without consent under FERPA. However, Ms. Styles notes that "the Department is committed to ensuring that institutions provide a campus environment where students feel safe to seek medical services from college and university clinics, including counseling and mental health services. We believe that students have a reasonable expectation that institutions will maintain the confidentiality of their conversations with health care professionals, and we commend the many institutions that have made thoughtful and sensitive decisions that respect the private nature of students' medical records."

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