Last year, when I saw my child’s record
folder it was about 1½" thick. This year I requested copies of all his
records, and at best the file is less than ½” thick. I suspect a lot
of records have been destroyed or moved. I have also requested that I
be given copies of all of my child’s records and they wish to charge
me a fee for the copies. What can I do?
When a parent is dealing with their
child’s school records, they are a number of interrelated issues that
arise. First, what is an “educational record”? Next, what
“educational records” must be maintained by the school and for how
long? Then, what access does a parent have to their child’s
educational records? Can a parent a parent be charged for copies of
the child’s educational records? What if they dispute the accuracy of
a specific record? If records are destroyed or not made accessible,
where are complaints filed?
information, with the actual sections of the applicable statute or
regulations in italics may help improve your understanding of
this area of the law:
Definition of Educational Records
– The Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA), 20 U.S.C.
§ 1232g et seq., with the regulations interpreting the statute at 34
C.F.R. § 99 et seq., defines an educational record broadly. First
FERPA defines the term “record” as: . . . any
information recorded in any way, including, but not limited to,
handwriting, print, computer media, video or audio tape, film,
microfilm, and microfiche.
Next, FERPA defines an “educational
record” as: . . . those records, files, documents, and other
materials, which (i) contain information directly related to a
student; and (ii) are maintained by an educational agency or
institution or by a person acting for such agency or institution.
At the same time, a record is not
an “educational record” and subject to parental access if the record
[is] . . . kept in the sole possession of the maker, are used only as a personal
memory aid, and are not accessible or revealed to any other person
except a temporary substitute for the maker of the record.
A record is directly related to the
student if it contains “personally identifiable” information.
Personally identifiable information
includes, but is not limited to: (a) The student's name; (b) The
name of the student's parent or other family member; (c) The address
of the student or student's family; (d) A personal identifier, such
as the student's social security number or student number; (e) A list
of personal characteristics that would make the student's identity
easily traceable; or (f) Other information that would make the
student's identity easily traceable.
of Records – What educational records need
to be maintained and not destroyed is governed by both state and
federal law. The state laws vary from state to state. They are
frequently titled “record retention” and can be found via searching
your state’s statutes, regulations or school code using
www.findlaw.com or similar legal search engine. The state law may
contain their own unique manner of addressing disputes regarding
some time most of a student’s educational records are destroyed.
Generally, it has been my experience that schools keep on file as a
permanent record the
student's name, address, and phone number, his or her grades,
attendance record, classes attended, grade level completed, and year
completed. However, for student’s receiving services under IDEA,
their educational records generally need to be maintained as long as
services are being provided. Even then, pursuant to 34 CFR §300.573,
the public agency
must inform the parents when personally identifiable information
collected, maintained, or used under this part is no longer needed to
provide educational services to the child so the parent can decide if
they want copies of the records before they are destroyed.
Access – FERPA provide that Parents have
the right to inspect and review the
education records of their children. . . . Each educational agency or
institution shall establish appropriate procedures for the granting of
a request by parents for access to the education records of their
children within a reasonable period of time, but in no case more than
forty-five days after the request has been made.
Note: IDEA eligible student –
IDEA has its own record requirements that adopt much of the FERPA
language. However, the right to access records is immediate when an
IEP Team meeting or administrative hearing is involved.
Copies of Records
– The federal regulations interpreting FERPA state:
circumstances effectively prevent the parent or eligible student from
exercising the right to inspect and review the student's education
records, the educational agency or institution, or SEA or its
component, shall l-- (1) Provide the parent or eligible student with a
copy of the records requested.
– Disputes as to missing or inaccurate records can be addressed in a
number of ways. First, pursuant to FERPA’s regulations at 34 CFR
(a) if a parent or eligible student believes
the education records relating to the student contain information that
is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student's rights of
privacy, he or she may ask the educational agency or institution to
amend the record. (b) The educational agency or institution shall
decide whether to amend the record as requested within a reasonable
time after the agency or institution receives the request. (c) If the
educational agency or institution decides not to amend the record as
requested, it shall inform the parent or eligible student of its
decision and of his or her right to a hearing under 34 CFR §99.21.
or eligible student may file a written complaint with the Office
regarding an alleged violation under the Act and this part. The
Office's address is: Family Policy Compliance Office, U.S. Department
of Education, 400 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, DC 20202-4605.
Additional information on the law and filing complaints is available
on the FPCO website at
John F. Brower, JD
Education Law Center, PLLC (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Law Office of John F. Brower,
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