Requests for Educational Records: What to Do

Federal law requires that special procedures be followed when the University receives a subpoena or other request for educational records concerning individual students. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also known as the "Buckley Amendment") provides that, with certain exceptions, educational records may not be disclosed to persons outside the University other than the student. One of the exceptions permits the University to provide copies of student records in connection with judicial proceedings, but only if (1) the University has received a valid subpoena for the records; and (2) the University, before complying with the subpoena, makes a reasonable effort to notify the student that it has received a subpoena and intends to produce the requested records.

Therefore, before furnishing copies of educational records to third parties, it is important that you comply with the following procedures:

  1. Contact the General Counsel's Office: If you receive a subpoena, you should immediately contact the General Counsel's Office and deliver or fax a copy of the subpoena to this office. Be sure to specify the individual who received the subpoena and the date and manner in which it was received. Notification to the General Counsel's Office should be directed to Ranna Farzan at 495-4778 or Email. If she is not available, please contact Diane Lopez at 496-4172. If you cannot reach one of these people, please contact any of the University Attorneys in the General Counsel's Office.
  2. Consult With the General Counsel's Office to Determine Whether the Subpoena Should Be Honored: The General Counsel's Office will check to see whether the subpoena is valid. Determining whether a subpoena is valid can be complicated, particularly where the litigation is taking place outside Massachusetts. For out-of-state litigation, there are specific procedures that an attorney must follow to obtain a subpoena that is valid in Massachusetts. Different rules apply to civil and criminal cases. The General Counsel's Office will advise you whether the subpoena is valid and enforceable for purposes of the Buckley Amendment.
  3. Do Not Produce Any Records Until the Subpoena Has Been Approved by the General Counsel's Office: While the subpoena is being reviewed by the General Counsel's Office, you should not produce any records, even if the subpoena contains an imminent deadline for a response and/or representatives of the parties are contacting your office and urging you to respond.
  4. Refer All Outside Attorneys to the General Counsel's Office: All dealings with outside attorneys should be conducted through the Office of the General Counsel. If you are contacted by an attorney, please refer the attorney to this office.
  5. Attempt to Notify the Student Before Releasing Any Records: The General Counsel's Office will coordinate the release of records and will inform the student of the receipt of the subpoena pursuant to FERPA regulations.