North Texas Daily

Know your rights as a college student

Know your rights as a college student

Know your rights as a college student
August 07
14:00 2021

Content warning: The following article contains language and themes surrounding sexual harassment, assault and misconduct that may be triggering. Reader discretion is advised. 

As the beginning of the semester approaches, students may be more focused on preparing for classes and moving into new housing than their legal rights.

The Division of Student Affairs provides a list of students’ rights on its website, which includes basic freedoms like expecting a quality education, joining student organizations without discrimination and the right to petition the appropriate university unit for redress of grievances.

However, there are specific laws that address students’ right to freedom from discrimination and protects students’ right to privacy. The terms “Title IX” and “FERPA” are used often in a higher education setting, but students may be unfamiliar with the laws behind the names. 

For those going back to school and already have enough on their plate, here is a quick breakdown of important legislation concerning the rights of students and how to receive free legal representation through the university. 

Title IX

Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972 is a federal statute that prohibits discrimination in educational programs on the basis of sex. Sex-based harassment includes sexual assault and other forms of sexual violence. 

The legislation can come up in many aspects of higher education, including university recruitment and admissions, financial aid, employment and athletics. Title IX issues also include the treatment of pregnant and parenting students and the treatment of LGBTQ+ students.

Equal Opportunity & Title IX is the primary university office responsible for enforcing policies and investigating complaints of discrimination, harassment and retaliation. The office also handles incidents of discrimination related to race, age, disability status, veteran status and more.

Students can file complaints regarding sexual misconduct here. Students can report issues regarding discrimination and/or harassment here. Resources for Title IX-related incidents can be found on the EO website.   

FERPA 

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act protects the privacy of students through their education records and guarantees students access to their records. 

Under FERPA, no person or group, including a student’s family members, may access protected education records without permission from said student. However, the law allows parental access of education records if the student is claimed as a dependent on federal income tax forms.

 Some categories of personal information fall under directory information, which can be released without a student’s consent. This includes a student’s name, major, dates of attendance and enrollment status. Students have the right to withhold even directory information and can request to do so with this form

FERPA also guarantees the right to review one’s own education records. Written requests must be met within 45 days of the day the state of Texas receives a request. Students also have the right to request an amendment of their records if they believe the files are inaccurate.

All university employees with access to student information systems are required to complete FERPA training.

Student Legal Services

Students facing legal problems can receive a wide variety of free services through the SLS department. Attorneys at the university can offer students legal advice, assistance, representation and education.

SLS may write letters, draft legal documents, represent students or otherwise attempt to resolve legal problems. In the case of criminal matters, including traffic tickets, the office may be able to provide general advice but does not represent students.

The department handles family, consumer and employment law, as well as immigration, personal injury and landlord/tenant issues. Common legal issues students can receive assistance with include divorces, car accidents, debt collection, unpaid wages, workplace discrimination and evictions.

The application for student legal services can be found here.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles

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Ileana Garnand

Ileana Garnand

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