Disability Services Program

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Confidentiality

Confidentiality

All information about a student's disability is considered to be confidential. It is shared only when there is compelling reason to do so. Records and information are protected by:

  • the Family Educational Rights And Privacy Act;
  • Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and
  • the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990.

Your consent for release of information is not required as long as the disclosure is to other school officials (including instructors) within the college whom Solano College has determined to have legitimate educational interests..

What are the rules regarding confidentiality?

  • Disability related information should be treated as medical information and handled under the same strict rules of confidentiality, as is other medical information. This includes the comprehensive documentation from an appropriate source that persons with disabilities must provide to establish the existence of their disability and their need for accommodation or consideration.
  • Disability related information should be collected and maintained on separate college forms and kept in secure files with limited access.
  • Disability related information should be shared only on a limited basis within the institutional community. It may be shared only when there is a compelling reason for the individual from the institution seeking information regarding some specific aspect of this confidential information.

Why do we need these rules?

Some disability related information is clearly medical in nature, and as such, must remain confidential as noted. Other disability related information might trigger negative connotations about the person with the disability. People whose disability is a result of HIV, seizure disorder or psychiatric illness, for example, deserve and expect to have their privacy protected by having this information handled in a highly confidential manner. The government statutes regarding persons with disabilities hold the promise that they will provide the same level of protection for any one individual, or class of individuals, with a disability than they do for another. Therefore, since some disability related information must be guarded closely, keeping all such information equally protected is a conservative, safe and legally acceptable practice.

What does this mean for Solano College?

DSP is assigned the responsibility for collecting and holding disability related documentation for students with disabilities.

The information regarding a student's disability should be shared by those who hold the documentation on a limited basis, and then only when there is compelling reason for such disclosure. This may mean sharing with faculty only the information that a student has a documented disability and need for accommodations. In the U.S., the Department of Justice has indicated that a faculty member generally does not have a need to know what the disability is, only that it has been appropriately verified by the office assigned this responsibility on behalf of the institution. Thus, faculty would have no legal right to demand access to the actual documentation, including testing scores, dates or names of professionals providing such documentation.

Administrators may have a need to collect data such as how many students are being served, the nature of their disabilities and recommended accommodations. Under typical circumstances, however, they do not have a need for personally identifiable information about whom those students are for purposes of statistical or survey reporting. One way to protect the confidentiality of students with disabilities is by being careful to see that their names do not appear on general listings that may be circulated throughout the institutional community in other contexts.

Information regarding someone’s disability or their status as a person with a disability is sensitive and should be managed carefully. Interoffice correspondence regarding the needs of a student with a disability should not be placed in shared files without password protection. The same memo sent to a number of students with disabilities by computer with a multiple address listing, may lead to a violation of confidentiality by revealing the names of those students to each other.

But doesn't FERPA give faculty the right to more information?

In the U.S., the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974, also known as the Buckley Amendment, provides faculty with access to educational information in institutional files regarding students with whom they are working. Disability related records provided by a physician, psychiatrist, psychologist, or other recognized professional are not subject to free access under FERPA. The Act exempts such disability related records that are used for support of the student and are available only to service providers and other professionals chosen by the student.