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:
- inspect and review their education records;
- request the amendment of inaccurate or misleading records;
- consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information contained in their education record;
- file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by an educational institution to comply with this law.
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.
Student Rights under FERPA
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) affords students certain rights with respect to their education records. These rights include:
- The right to inspect and review the student’s education records within 45 days of the day Mason receives a request for access.
A student should submit to the registrar, dean, head of the academic department, or other appropriate official, a written request that identifies the record(s) the student wishes to inspect. The Mason official will make arrangements for access and notify the student of the time and place where the records may be inspected. If the records are not maintained by the Mason official to whom the request was submitted, that official shall advise the student of the correct official to whom the request should be addressed.
- The right to request amendment of the student’s education records that the student believes are inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy rights under FERPA.
A student who wishes to ask for an amendment of a record should write the Mason official responsible for the record, clearly identify the part of the record the student wants changed, and specify why it should be changed.
If the official decides not to amend the record as requested, the official will notify the student in writing of the decision and the student’s right to a hearing regarding the request for amendment. Additional information regarding the hearing procedures will be provided to the student when notified of the right to a hearing.
- The right to provide written consent before the university discloses personally identifiable information from the student’s education records, except to the extent that FERPA authorizes disclosure without consent.
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 is a person employed by 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 Mason has contracted as its agent to provide a service instead of using Mason employees or officials (such as an attorney, 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.
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.
- The right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education concerning alleged failures by Mason to comply with the requirements of FERPA. The name and address of the office that administers FERPA is:
Family Policy Compliance Office
U.S. Department of Education
400 Maryland Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20202-5901