Annual Notification of Rights under FERPA

Annual Notification of Rights under FERPA

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) is a federal law that protects student privacy. Under FERPA, eligible students are granted certain rights with regards to education records:

  1. The right to inspect and review their education records within 45 days of the request
  2. The right to request amendment of education records if the student believes they are inaccurate
  3. The right to require George Mason University to obtain written consent to disclose personally identifiable information from the student’s education records unless an exception applies
  4. The right to file a complaint concerning alleged FERPA violations with the Family Policy Compliance Office within the U.S. Department of Education

Disclosing Educational Records

In general, Mason does not disclose non-directory information to third parties unless the student has provided consent, the release is to the parent of a dependent student, as required by § 23.1-1303.B.5 of the Code of Virginia, or the disclosure meets a qualified exception under FERPA.

One such exception is when disclosure is made to a Mason School Official with a Legitimate Educational Interest. Mason defines these as:

Mason School Officialindividuals who engage in the instructional, supervisory, advisory, administrative, governance, public safety, research, and support functions of the University. In addition to any other person or entity conducting institutional services or doing work on behalf of the University. They need not necessarily be paid employees of the University.  School officials include (but are not limited to):

  • Faculty
  • Staff
  • Contractors/Consultants
  • Volunteers
  • Board members
  • Trustees
  • Administrators
  • Academic partners
  • Student workers
  • Students functioning in an official University capacity

Legitimate Educational Interest: refers to the need of a school official to access a student’s education records in the course of performing his or her duties for the University.

Students may give written consent to release their protected educational records to a third party by completing a Consent to Release Student Information Form and submitting it to the Office of the University Registrar.  Students can rescind their consent at any time, which will prevent the release of that information from that point going forward.

Directory Information

FERPA authorizes the release of Directory Information without a student’s consent. Mason has defined its Directory Information in accordance with what is allowable under FERPA, and it includes:

  • Student Name
  • *Student ID (G Number)
  • *Date of Birth
  • Major Field of Study
  • Dates of Attendance
  • Enrollment Status
  • Class Level
  • Previous Institutions
  • Degrees and Awards Received
  • Photographs
  • Participation in Officially Recognized Sports and Activities
  • Weight and Height of Athletes

*Denotes Limited Directory Information. This information will only be used for verification purposes and to school officials who have access, consistent with FERPA, to such information and only in conjunction with a legitimate educational interest.

Mason assumes that students who do not request to withhold disclosure of their directory information consent to the release of this information.

Withholding Disclosure of Student Information

Currently enrolled students may withhold disclosure of their student information by completing a Request to Prevent Disclosure of Student Information Form and submitting it to Office of the University Registrar.  Former students and alumni should contact the FERPA Compliance Office at ferpa@gmu.edu for instructions on submitting a request.

Confidential Hold: Prevents disclosure of all student information. Students who elect this hold must conduct all university business in person with a photo ID or via their official Mason email address. No student information will be released over the phone. The student’s name will not appear in any convocation or commencement program.

Confidential status does not convey a right to be anonymous in the classroom or to impede routine classroom communication and interactions. Students with confidential status should expect to be identified in class by name and to have their Mason email address used for class purposes.

Request to Inspect an Education Record:

Eligible students are afforded the right to inspect all education records maintained by the University. The following procedures should be followed to allow a student to inspect their education record.

(1) Students must provide a written request indicating what type of education records they want to inspect and the location of those records. A separate request must be completed for each location of records.

(2) Students should submit the written request to the FERPA Compliance Officer in the Office of the University Registrar. The FERPA Compliance Officer will contact the custodian of the education records to be inspected and oversee the inspection process.

(3) Students will be able to review the requested education records within 45 days of submitting the their request.

(4) The custodian will contact the student to arrange a day and time for the inspection to take place and supervise the inspection.

(5) The student will be able to make notes during the inspection, but is not permitted to remove any records or documents at the time of the inspection.

(6) Following the inspection, both custodian and student will sign a copy of the request to note the date, time and location the inspection took place. A copy should be retained by the custodian and the original forwarded to the FERPA Compliance Officer.

Exclusions to FERPA Requests:

The following records are not available for inspection:

(1) Parents Financial Records.

(2) Records containing information on other students.

(3) Records connected to a denied application.

(4) Confidential letters and/or recommendations to which access has already been waived.

(5) Any other record FERPA excludes from the definition of an educational record.

Request to Amend an Education Record:

After inspecting their education record, a student may believe a portion of that record contains information that is inaccurate or misleading. Students may request to have that education record amended. The following procedures should be followed to allow a student to request their educational record be amended:

(1) Students must provide a written request and indicate what record they are requesting to be amended and why they believe the record is inaccurate or misleading. A separate request must be made for each amendment requested.

(2) Students must submit the request to the FERPA Compliance Officer in the Office of the University Registrar.

(3) The FERPA Compliance Officer will forward the request for amendment to the custodian of the record and, in cases when they are not the same individual, the individual in the department, college or school who has the authority to amend the record.

(4) The review and decision will take place within 30 days and the student will be informed in writing no later than the 30th day of the decision.

(5) If the department has concluded no amendment will occur, the student may then request a hearing or to place a document in the record which explains why they believe the educational record to be wrong or misleading.  Requests should be directed to the FERPA Compliance Officer in the Office of the University Registrar.

(6) If the student requests a hearing, the student will be informed in writing of the date and time of the hearing.

Contact the FERPA Compliance Office at ferpa@gmu.edu if you have additional questions.

 

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