The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA), also known as the “Buckley Amendment,” is a federal law that gives protection to student educational records and provides students with certain rights. These rights include the ability to:
FERPA also authorizes the release of “Directory Information” without a student’s prior consent, under certain conditions which are set forth in the Act.
George Mason University strives to fully comply with FERPA by protecting the privacy of student records and judiciously evaluating requests for release of information from those records. Furthermore, in accordance with the Act, George Mason University has specifically defined “Directory Information” and provides annual notification to students of their rights in the University Catalog.
Education records are records that are: 1. directly related to a student; and 2. maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for a college or university.
Personally identifiable information includes but is not limited to: the student's name; the name of the student's parent or other family member; the address of the student or student's family; a personal identifier, such as the student's social security number or G-number; a list of personal characteristics that would make the student's identity easily traceable; or other information that would make the student's identity easily traceable.
The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) of the U.S. Department of Education monitors schools for compliance. Students have the right to file complaints with the FPCO alleging failure by Mason to comply with the requirements of the Act. Failure to comply may result in a loss of federal funding for financial aid and educational grants and/or civil litigation.
George Mason discloses education records without a student's prior written consent under the FERPA exception for disclosure to school officials with legitimate educational interests. A school official has a legitimate educational interest if the official needs to review an education record in order to fulfill his or her professional responsibilities for the University.
Additionally, a school official is a person employed by George Mason in an administrative, supervisory, academic or research, or support staff position (including law enforcement unit personnel and health staff); a person or company with whom George Mason has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using Mason employees or officials (such as a degree or enrollment verification agency, auditor, or collection agent); a person serving on the Board of Trustees; or a student serving on an official committee, such as a disciplinary or grievance committee, or assisting another school official in performing his or her tasks.
Prior consent is not necessary to release or confirm "Directory Information" from a student's education record unless the student has placed a “non disclosure” or “confidential hold” request on his/her records. In addition, prior consent is not necessary under certain other conditions stated in FERPA, such as by court order or subpoena. However, it is Mason’s policy that information from a student’s education record be released only by the Registrar’s Office and within constraints.
Important note: The above information has been developed by the Office of the University Registrar to give general information about FERPA and to acquaint students, parents, faculty and staff with some of the privacy issues surrounding students' educational records. It is not intended as nor is it a substitute for legal advice on any particular issue. Please contact the Office of University Counsel with any questions regarding FERPA at 703-993-2619.
Last updated March 13, 2009.