Faculty Confidentiality Policy

Guidelines for Faculty: Maintaining Confidentiality of Student Disability Information

All disability-related information including accommodation letters, correspondence, and consultations are considered confidential and must be managed in line with The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) regulations. This includes electronic, paper, verbal, and any other types of communication.

In addition to fulfilling legal obligations, maintaining a high standard of confidentiality also serves to maintain an environment in which students with disabilities feel respected, safe, supported, and protected.

Breaches of confidentiality are taken very seriously by UCSF. Unauthorized disclosures of student information must be documented and can result in the University being in non-compliance with federal regulations.  The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) may audit FERPA compliance and require corrective actions.  Additionally, such disclosures may violate state privacy laws and may subject the university and the individual to liability.

We recognize that disclosures of information are generally inadvertent. For this reason, a high level of vigilance to avoid unintentional but inappropriate disclosure of disability information must be maintained. Please contact Medical Student Disabilities Services if there are any questions, issues, or concerns regarding maintaining confidentiality of information.

Medical Student Disability Services offers the following guidelines for faculty, staff, and administrators to ensure that confidential student information is kept secure:

  • All information that a student shares with a faculty member is to be used specifically for arranging reasonable accommodations for the course of study.

  • Do not leave student disability information visible on your computer or in any printed format that others can see.

  • Letters of accommodation should be filed in a safe place and disposed of securely at the end of the quarter.

  • Refrain from discussing a student’s disability status and necessary accommodations within hearing range of fellow students or others who do not have an “educational need to know.” 

  • Do not assume that students registered with Medical Student Disabilities Services are aware of other students’ disability status. If for some reason you feel it might be beneficial for students with disabilities to know each other, Medical Student Disabilities Services is happy to discuss this further with you. However, the default action is to keep this information private.

  • When sending emails to a group of students, even if they are all registered with Medical Student Disabilities Services, blind copy (BCC) students so they are not privy to other student’s information, or better yet, send separate emails to each student.

  • At no time should the class be informed that a student has a disability, except at the student’s request.

  • Discuss Accommodation Letters and logistics of implementing accommodations with students in private. Make yourself available by email, during office hours, or by appointment to discuss.

  • Casual conversations with colleagues about a student’s disability status are prohibited. Confidential disability information, to which you have access, should be released to other faculty or staff based only on their need to know (e.g. they are a co-instructor in the course, they are proctoring an exam, they are arranging for exam space, they are assisting you to identify a notetaker in the course). In such cases, disclose only the necessary information. For example:

    • A course coordinator proctoring your exam would only need to know the student’s approved exam accommodation (e.g. 1.5 extended time and private room).

    • A TA who is providing Medical Student Disabilities Services with a list of the required books for the course only needs to know that the book list is needed, not which student the request is related to.

    • A clinical supervisor only needs to know the approved on-site accommodations, not why the student requires them.

    • It is acceptable to communicate an anticipated number of students with testing needs to faculty in other blocks to aid in test administration pre-planning.

  • Requesting specific information about a student’s disability is inappropriate. Instead, faculty should focus any inquiry on how a student’s learning is impacted by their disability.

  • Requesting a letter from the student’s physician is inappropriate. The Accommodation Letter is all that is needed to justify the accommodation and supersedes any letter from the student’s provider.

  • If a student voluntarily discloses the nature of their disability to you, even if it is obvious, do not disclose it to others.

  • If a student tries to provide you with their primary disability documentation, refuse to read or accept it and refer the student to Medical Student Disabilities Services. UCSF has designated Medical Student Disabilities Services as the repository of all disability documentation for medical students with disabilities.

 

For further information about the University’s expectations for maintaining security of information see:

http://registrar.ucsf.edu/faculty-staff/ferpa-privacy

http://hipaa.ucsf.edu/education/downloads/ProtectPrivacySecurity-PHI-PII.pdf

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