Question: A faculty member routinely leaves graded exams and graded coursework in a box outside her office door for students to pick up at their convenience. Students are identified by their names and W numbers. Is this practice a violation of FERPA?
Answer: Yes. The graded exams and coursework are education records because they are directly related to the student and they are arguably maintained by the faculty member. Student names and W numbers are personally identifiable information. It is a violation of the FERPA for a faculty member to leave unsecured in a public area education records containing personally identifiable information.
* General Rule: Graded exams and other coursework should be returned to students in a manner that protects the privacy of the records. Do not leave unsecured in a public area any item of a student's work that contains personally identifiable information. Instead of using names and W numbers, faculty may opt to use a random number, not the W number, and the list should not then be in alphabetical order. Or, faculty may leave graded exams and coursework with a department assistant who will verify ID and release the records to the individual student.