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Parent and Family Notification and Disclosure Policy

Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), colleges and universities are afforded certain liberties relative to notifying parents or guardians of information concerning their student. In order to involve families in the total educational experience of the student and to facilitate communication between students and their parents/legal guardians, the Office of Student Accountability and Conflict Response has established the following notification and disclosure policy. 

The goals of this policy are: 

  • To clarify when notification and/or disclosure may be appropriate. 

  • To partner with families in support of their student. 

  • To provide an opportunity for conversation between students and their families. 

  • To identify additional supportive points of intervention for students. 

This policy does not restrict or limit the University’s discretion to make any notifications and disclosures which are permitted by FERPA.

Information for Dependent Students

Most undergraduate students at Penn State are considered “dependent students” as defined by the IRS. 

Parent/Guardian Notification Letter: This letter summarizes the outcome of the student's conduct process and lists the official Student Code of Conduct (Code) violation(s) and the Action Plan that was assigned. The letter encourages parents and guardians to communicate with their student about what happened, what they learned, and how they plan to be successful moving forward. 

When a dependent student accepts responsibility for a violation or is found in violation of the Code, notification will typically be sent to their parent or guardian in the following circumstances: 

  • There was a “Substance Use Misconduct” violation, and the student is under 21. 

  • The Action Plan includes Suspension, Expulsion, and/or Loss of Housing (including those administrative sanctions issued in a conditional status). 

When a student raises a serious health or safety concern, the case manager may work with the student to identify an alternative supportive contact. The decision to allow an alternate contact is discretionary and contingent on the student completing a waiver to allow the notification and related disclosure. 

Other Disclosure: Upon inquiry, the University may disclose records or information to a parent or guardian when the dependent student has accepted responsibility for a violation or was found in violation of the Code. To the extent possible, the University will include the student in communications with the parent or guardian to encourage ongoing learning and reflection. 

The University may also choose to share information with a parent or guardian regarding conduct matters in cases including, but not limited to, the following circumstances: 

  • When the student’s ability to continue at Penn State or to live on campus is in jeopardy. 

  • When the student has been involved or has involved others in a potentially life-threatening situation and there is reason to believe that notifying parents or guardians may reduce the imminent risk. 

Information for Non-Dependent Students

A student is not a dependent student if they: 

  • Are or will be 24 years old during the academic year. 

  • Are enrolled in a graduate, professional, or adult learner program. 

  • Are an international student. 

  • Are a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces. 

  • Have a child or other dependent who receives more than half of their support from the student. 

  • Are married. 

  • Are an orphan or ward of the court. 

  • Are emancipated. 

Students may provide documentation to show they are a non-dependent student if their status cannot be otherwise confirmed through University records. 

By law, the disclosure of a non-dependent student’s records to a third-party generally requires signed and dated written consent. Absent unusual circumstances which qualify as an exception to FERPA, the University does not notify parents and/or guardians of students who are not dependent students. Non-dependent students are, however, encouraged to seek the support of a person, to discuss and process their student conduct experience. That person can be a parent, family member, friend, or another loved one. If a non-dependent student would like to authorize disclosure of their student conduct records to a third-party, they can do so by completing the online waiver.

Role of a Support Person

The Office of Student Accountability & Conflict Response recognizes that participating in the conduct process can be a challenging experience for any student. We encourage students to seek the assistance of a Support Person of their choice.  

A “Support Person” is, in the simplest terms possible, a person who provides support to a student who is engaging with the student conduct process. A Respondent, or Complainant, may identify a Support Person who is able to accompany them to meetings and is able to provide guidance and advice throughout the process. The extent to which a Support Person may participate is defined in written procedure or other relevant university policy.  

Attorneys and the Conduct Process

An attorney representing a student is welcome to serve as a Support Person in the conduct process, but only with the student's permission. An attorney can accompany the student in any meeting or proceeding, advise them in the preparation and presentation of sharing information, and advise them in the preparation of any appeals. However, as with all Support Persons, attorneys may not speak on their behalf, disrupt proceedings, and can be asked to leave at the discretion of the case manager or decision-maker.