How and Why to Obtain Your Child's School Records
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By Deidre Hayden
Controlling Who Sees Your Child's Records
FERPA and IDEA prohibit schools from disclosing your child's records to anyone without your written consent. The only exceptions are:
- School officials, including teachers, in your child's district with a legitimate educational interest as defined in the school procedures
- School officials in the school district to which your child intends to transfer (Before the records are sent, however, you will want to review them and challenge their content, if necessary.)
- Certain state and national education agencies, if necessary, for enforcing federal laws
- Anyone to whom a state statute requires the school to report information
- Accrediting and research organizations helping the school, provided they guarantee confidentiality
- Student financial aid officials
- People who have court orders, provided the school makes reasonable efforts to notify the parent or student before releasing the records
- Appropriate people in health and safety emergencies such as doctors, nurses, and fire marshals
- Law enforcement and judicial authorities in certain cases
With the exception of the people listed above, schools must have your permission to release material from your child's records to anyone other than yourself. When requesting release of the records, the school must tell you which records are involved, why they have been requested, and who will receive them. Likewise, if you want someone outside the school system to see your child's records, you will be asked to sign a release granting such permission. All of these rules have been instituted to protect your privacy and that of your child.
When Your Child Reaches 18 or Goes to Post-secondary School
When your child reaches the age of 18 or enters a post-secondary educational institution such as a vocational-technical school, a college, a university, or trade school, most rights to records previously available to you are transferred to your child. The only parts of the record your child will not have the right to see are your financial records and any statements or confidential recommendations your child has waived the right to see. This means if you wish to review the school records of a son or daughter who is 18 or who is attending post-secondary school, she must first sign a waiver permitting you to do so.
IDEA gives parents of children with disabilities, including learning disabilities, special consideration when transferring record rights. The law grants states the authority to develop individual policies which take into account the type and severity of the child's disability and the child's age when transferring record rights from parents to their children. Thus, if your child with disabilities has reached age 18 or is about to reach 18 and is in secondary school, you should find out, by asking the director of special education in your school district, if your state has a policy that allows you continued access to your child's records. If not, you and school personnel may want to develop a waiver form which your child can sign allowing you continued rights to review, to control access to, and to seek changes in those records.