FERPA is the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, originally enacted by Congress in 1974. It is also sometimes referred to as the Buckley Amendment, after a United States Senator who sponsored the legislation. The statute applies to any educational agency or institution that receives federal funding; this includes, then, nearly all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary institutions in the United States.
Since FERPA was originally enacted, Congress has occasionally amended the law. The overarching purpose of FERPA, however, has continued to be the protection of confidentiality in a student's educational records, as well as the right of a student to inspect those records. A short general summary of FERPA's provisions has been provided by the U.S. Department of Education: http://www.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/fpco/ferpa/index.html. Please review this summary now.