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Understanding the Accountability Process

The Student Accountability and Sexual Misconduct Accountability processes are designed to enforce compliance with University policy and applicable law and to protect the rights of all parties involved. Case reviewers must carefully weigh all the facts and evidence within a particular context and set of circumstances. As a public institution, James Madison University must comply with both federal anti-discrimination statutes and due process requirements of the U.S. Constitution. Every year, OSARP does a comprehensive, ongoing review of our policies, procedures, training, and support services to ensure that we are doing all we can to reflect recent guidance and evolving best practices.

As an educational institution, the University's policies and procedures are not the same as in a court of law. Individuals can also seek redress through the criminal justice system if they believe that a crime has been committed. The University cooperates fully with law enforcement in such circumstances.

If you have any questions relating to the Accountability ProcessSexual Misconduct Accountability Process or the JMU Student Handbook, please contact us.

The JMU Student Handbook was designed to be a one-stop information center for students and their families regarding the University Accountability Process.

Supporting Your Student Through the Accountability Process

As a parent or family member of a student, your relationship may change when your student goes to college, but you will likely still be a person your student goes to for support or assistance. As a result, you may be one of the first people that your student calls if they receive an email about an alleged policy violation(s). You might also be the voice of reason to remind your student that the accountability process is the way to hold students accountable to the expectations of the University. Here is some information that can help you as you support your student through an accountability process.

  1. While we recognize that your goal is to provide support for your student, conduct staff ask that you provide this support unconditionally, but not blindly. Be aware that your student may not tell you all of the details of a situation.

  2. Understand that there is a process in place to hear all information regarding the incident in question and encourage your student to prepare themself for the process. You can review this website to learn more about the Accountability Process, but also encourage your student to do so.

  3. When your student receives an email regarding an Administrative Case Review and has questions, direct them to contact a staff member in OSARP for more information. Staff members are not permitted to give specifics to parents or family members without a FERPA waiver (see #4). This also empowers the student to solve their own issues and concerns.

  4. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 (FERPA) as well as University policies preclude faculty and staff from discussing your student’s academic and conduct record without their written permission. Staff can answer questions about the process, but cannot provide specific details about a case without a written waiver.

  5. Practice the “24 Hour Rule.” You may receive a phone call or email message from your student because they are upset about being involved in a conduct case. You may be tempted to try to immediately fix the problem for them. This intervention invariably fails. Try to allow 24 hours to inform, guide, teach, observe, and chastise (if necessary). Lessons learned through participation in a student accountability process must be experienced to have an educational effect. After all, gaining a higher education degree is about learning.

  6. Your student may ask you to assist as an advisor to them in the accountability process. This can be a challenging role for a parent, as the process is designed to allow your student to speak on their own behalf. 

"We take our responsibilities as educators very seriously and do our best to provide a fair and unbiased system for all students. While we understand that involvement in the accountability process may be difficult for students, we do our best to provide them support to effectively handle the situations in which they find themselves."

(The information referenced above is adapted from the Association for Student Conduct Administration's: "The Student Conduct Process: A Guide for Parents" 2006)

Understanding FERPA

When your student was in elementary and high school, the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) gave you access and control of their educational records. Now that they are in college, these same laws transfer ownership of the records directly to the student themselves.

According to FERPA, college students are considered responsible adults and are allowed to determine who will receive information about them. While parents understandably have an interest in a student's progress, they are not automatically granted access to a student's educational records (includes grades, finances, and discipline records) without written consent of the student.

Physical and mental health records are covered by other university policies, federal law, and professional ethics. In general, professionals working in these areas will not release student information except in emergency situations. Your student can choose to release information from these records to a third party, but they may want to release information on a case-by-case basis.

Parents are encouraged to consult with the student if information is needed. Your student may give permission for you or another party to access their records by filing a FERPA Waiver form. For more information regarding FERPA, refer to the U.S. Department of Education's website:

Resources for Parents and Guardians

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