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Alcohol and Calling Parents, Deux

The Washington Post story on Virginia Tech’s new alcohol policy really has, um, legs. The New York TimesMotherlode blog addressed the subject too, inspiring variety of comments from different viewpoints.

To recap, parents of any Virginia Tech student under 21 involved in an alcohol violation will be contacted. Previously, only parents whose students were involved in serious situations (alcohol poisoning, drunken driving, et cetera) were notified. Now, the parents of students who are caught in their rooms with a beer will also be told about the incident.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) restricts institutions from telling parents some sorts of information, but allows some latitude when it comes to health and safety issues.

Most institutions only inform parents of alcohol incidents when they are of a more serious nature, but a handful, such as Virginia Tech, are deciding to let parents know when anything alcohol-related happens to their student. One of Virginia Tech’s reasons for the change was the dismay they encountered when parents, who didn’t know of an initial violation, were surprised when their student was booted from school after the second.

The Motherlode blog’s respondents have a variety of viewpoints. Some don’t seem to be familiar with FERPA and its restrictions; they think institutions should alert parents of students’ grades as well. Some, thinking of their theoretical or real-life children, think they would want to know about any alcohol incidents; others say they would want to hear about only the most serious situations. Some comments get into the 21-up drinking age; is adulthood at 18 and alcohol consumption at 21 the best way to do things? If you have the time to skim, the comments section is a great cross-section of ideas and viewpoints on the issue.

What is your policy on informing parents about underage students’ alcohol-related incidents? Do you encounter parents who want to know more–or less–information than your policy reveals? How do you educate parents and students on FERPA and its restrictions?

Emily Glenn

Emily Glenn is the ACUHO-I Corporate Librarian.

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