In order to make the best decisions regarding your Child's education, it is important to review educational records concerning your Child.
You probably receive certain information routinely, such as report cards and reports of standardized tests. But School Districts are likely to have a great deal more information about your Child, and it is important that you review it.
A federal law entitled the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), 20 U.S.C. §1232, gives most parents the right to inspect and review all of their children's educational records from schools that receive funding through a program administered by the U.S. Department of Education.
(The law defines “parent” broadly. The term includes not only biological and adopting parents, but also legal guardians and others standing in loco parentis (such as a grandparent or stepparent with whom the child lives, or a person who is legally responsible for the welfare of the child).)
Parents do not have rights under FERPA if their Child's school does not receive federal funds. Therefore, private and parochial schools usually are not subject to FERPA. Court orders can limit a parent's rights to obtain records.)
Parents may have additional rights where the Child is protected by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).
FERPA does not require School Districts to maintain specific records. Therefore, it is legal for School Districts to destroy records without notice to parents unless there is a pending request to inspect and review the records.
Under FERPA, School Districts have forty-five (45) days to allow parents to inspect and review the records. In general, School Districts are not required to give parents a copy of the file. If parents request copies, School Districts can charge parents a fee for making the copies. However, School Districts cannot charge parents to search for or retrieve the records.
Parents can request access verbally, but it is better to make a written request which:
- Identifies you as the parent or guardian of the Child
- Gives your child's (the Student's) name, date of birth and grade
- States that your request is made under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C. §1232, 34 C.F.R. §99
- Requests all educational records
regarding the Student to which you are
entitled under FERPA, including but not
- Report cards
- Attendance records (if not included in the report cards)
- Disciplinary records
- IEP documents of any kind, including those labeled or considered “draft”
- IEP meeting notes
- Achievement and ability tests
- Standardized test scores (such as PSSA scores)
- Test instruments, question booklets, answer sheets, evaluations, surveys, inventories, and other materials that identify the Student (by name or number) and that are maintained by the School District or party acting for the School District
- Medical, dental and other health records (including visits to the school nurse and examinations)
- Functional Behavioral Assessments
- Psychological Tests administered
- Occupational Therapy evaluations, records of services provided to the Student, and the clinician's observations regarding the Student's progress (a/k/a “progress notes”)
- Physical Therapy evaluations, records of
services provided to the Student, and
the clinician's observations regarding
the Student's progress (a/k/a “progress
- Speech/Language evaluations, records of services provided to the Student, and the clinician's observations regarding the Student's progress (a/k/a “progress notes”)
- All other evaluations, records of services provided to the Student, and progress notes
- Anecdotal notes made by teachers, administrators, school psychologists, therapists, classroom aids and any other School District staff concerning the Student
- Classroom work, tests and homework kept by teachers and teachers' aids
- Special education records
- Records of telephone calls relating to the Student
- Records regarding services provided to the Student, including records of dates and times when the Student was or could have been provided applicable related services
- Logs showing who accessed the Student's records, when audio or video recordings of the Student were made, and/or when meetings were held regarding this Student;
- Documents (including but not limited to handwritten, typed or computer generated notes, including email) authored by School District personnel that refer to the Parent or any other member(s) of the Student's family
- Asks the School District to notify you of its charges to photocopy documents
- Asks the School District to notify you within one week if it believes that you need to do anything further in order to access the requested records
- States when you would be available to review the educational record, beginning with two (2) weeks after your request is delivered (so that the School District will have some time to gather the documents)
If you don't know who should receive your FERPA request, send it to the Superintendent, with a copy to the Assistant Superintendent (if any), Principal, Director of Special Education, and Guidance Counselor.
If you want your attorney or some other person to review the educational records with you or instead of you, be sure that your request explicitly authorizes the School District to disclose the educational records to that person. Give that person's name, title (such as “attorney”) and contact information.
When you schedule the appointment to review the School District's records, ask how the School District wants you to designate documents to be copied for you. Options include post-it notes, paperclips, and turning documents at a ninety (90) degree angle. Bring sufficient supplies to the meeting so that you will be able to mark all of the documents you want copied.
Before you review the School District's records, gather and familiarize yourself with your own records so that you will be able to determine what records you are missing from your file (and therefore should be copied), and what records are missing from the School District's file. Also, consider whether information in those records is inaccurate or misleading.
Before leaving the School District's office, count the number of documents which you flagged to be copied. When you receive the documents, and count the number of documents actually copied. If there is a discrepancy, notify the School District that you did not receive copies of all documents, and ask that the School District review the files to see what was overlooked.
When you receive the records from the School District, determine whether any facts in the records are inaccurate or misleading information. If it is, you have a right to ask that your Child's education records be amended. The School District is required to consider your request, even though it is not required to comply with your request. If the School District is not willing to amend the educational record per your request, the School District must inform you if you have a right to a hearing on the matter. If the educational record is not amended after a hearing, you may have the right to insert a statement in the educational record which expresses your views. Your statement must remain with the contested part of your Child's record; when the challenged records are removed, your statement may be removed.
Only facts may be challenged. FERPA does not give you the power to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by the School District about your Child.
School Districts are required to provide parents with annual notifications of rights, including their rights to inspect and review the Child's education records, seek to amend the records, consent to disclosure of personally identifiable information from the records, and file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office regarding alleged violations of FERPA. School Districts also must notify parents who is a “school official" and what it believes is a "legitimate educational interest." To find your School District's notification, review the student handbook; school calendar; school website, and notices mailed to parents. The annual notification also might be posted in the school, or published in a newspaper.
To read statutes and related materials, please see "Related Links" on the right.
If you would like to speak with Attorney Jana R. Barnett about special education rights, and learn how she can assist you, call her at 610-478-1860, or click here to send her an e-mail, and she will reply as quickly as possible.