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Meeting the needs of people with disabilities, their families, educators & service providers

Posts Tagged ‘FERPA’

FERPA only requires access to records, not copies

Thursday, May 15th, 2014

Letter to Anonymous, 113 LRP 35720 (FPCO 2013): The federal Department of Education’s Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) reiterated its position that the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) only requires school districts to provide parents with the ability to inspect and review their student’s educational records.  FERPA does not require school districts to provide copies of educational records, except where failing to provide copies would “effectively prevent the parent from obtaining access to the records.”  Since the parent here was within commuting distance of the school, the FPCO determined that such parent was not entitled to copies.

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Court may order disclosure of classmate’s educational record as part of litigation.

Monday, March 18th, 2013

K.S. v. Detroit Public School System, 60 IDELR 73 (E.D. Mich. 2012):  A federal district court ordered a school district to provide parents of a student with a cognitive disability with copies of a classmate’s disciplinary records, notwithstanding the district’s obligations under FERPA to keep the classmate’s educational records confidential.  The district sought to protect the classmate’s disciplinary record, however the court noted that the classmate’s disciplinary history may be relevant in the student’s parents’ private lawsuit against the district for its alleged failure to protect the student by repeatedly placing her in situations in which she was at risk of being victimized by her classmate.  The court noted FERPA specifically allows for production of otherwise confidential records under a court order.

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Hearing records remain confidential, despite parent’s election of an open hearing.

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

Oakstone Community School v. Williams, 58 IDELR 256 (S.D. Ohio 2012):  A federal district court ordered that the transcript, hearing exhibits, and first page of an IHO decision (following an impartial hearing) be sealed at the parent’s request.  The parent had exercised her right to an open hearing, and members of the public attended (including an individual who attempted to videotape the proceedings).  In light of the open hearing, the school sought to have the hearing records (including transcript and exhibits) kept from being held under seal in the federal court action.  The Court held for the parent, noting that, while the parent opted for an open hearing, the duty of confidentiality flowed to the student and the open hearing did not diminish the student’s privacy interests.  Accordingly, since exercising the right to an open hearing does not waive confidentiality provisions of FERPA and IDEA, the records were sealed to preserve their confidentiality.

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Parents must provide schools a reasonable opportunity to respond to record requests.

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

Letter to Anonymous, 111 LRP 67052 (FPCO 2011):  The Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO) notified a parent that, notwithstanding the requirement that a school district provide the parent an opportunity to review the educational records of her child within forty-five (45) days of her request, the parent must address the district’s response within a reasonable timeframe.  Here, the parent requested to review her child’s records in January, and the 45 day timeline expired on March 15.  Despite multiple responses from the district attempting to arrange a time for her review, the parent failed to respond to the district until March 11.  The FPCO determined that the parent’s affording the district such a narrow window of opportunity (two days) was unreasonable, and therefore the district did not violate FERPA.

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Parents must be allowed to inspect digital recordings of IEP team meetings.

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011

Letter to Cozort, 110 LRP 44375 (FPCO 2010):  The Family Policy Compliance Office determined that FERPA requires that parents and eligible students be allowed to inspect and review all audio and/or video recordings of meetings concerning the student, regardless of the District’s ability to make a copy of the recording, and regardless of whether the parents or eligible student provide the District with a copy of their own record of the meeting.

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School personnel violated a student’s right to privacy by using a redacted psychiatric evaluation as a teaching tool for a literature class.

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

S.S. v. Mount Olive Board of Education, 56 IDELR 99 (D.N.J. 2011):  A U.S. District Court ruled for parents of a student with diabetes and anxiety as a result of the use of a redacted version of the student’s psychiatric evaluation by a school social worker and special education teacher as a teaching tool for a high school literature class.  The Court withheld a determination as to what harm, if any, the student suffered as a result of the unauthorized disclosure of his psychiatric evaluation.

A high school special education teacher wished to provide a sample psychiatric evaluation to his literature class as an instructional tool in relation to J.D. Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye.”  The teacher requested a sample from the school’s social worker, who provided a psychiatric evaluation of the student, and attempted to redact personally identifiable information.  However, the students in the class were still able to identify the student due to the substantive information in the evaluation.

The parents sued, and the Court dismissed their claims under FERPA, HIPAA, IDEA and state student records laws.  Additionally, the Court dismissed the claims against the school district itself, and against various school personnel not specifically associated with the unauthorized disclosure of the student’s psychiatric evaluation.  However, the Court ruled in favor of the parents against the teacher and social worker under Section 1983, due to their violation of the student’s constitutional right to privacy.  The Court stated “no reasonable juror could find that” the teacher and social worker “did not breach a duty of care owed to” the student.

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E-mails are not considered “educational records” under IDEA and FERPA unless they are maintained as part of the student’s permanent file.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010

S.A. v. Tulare County Office of Education, 53 IDELR 111 (E.D. Cal. 2009): A federal district court rejected a claim by the parents of an autistic student that any and all e-mails, wherever kept by the school district, were “educational records.”

Noting the “fleeting nature” of e-mails (since “an e-mail may be sent, received, read, and deleted within moments”), the Court said that the idea that a parent or student could demand every e-mail that identifies a student, including those kept in individual inboxes or a retrievable electronic database, was “fanciful.”  Instead, the Court decided that, in order to become an “educational record” in accordance with FERPA and IDEA, the school district needs to print the e-mail and “maintain” a copy of the e-mail in the student’s permanent file (or, possibly, a secure electronic database; however the Court explicitly withheld judgment on that possibility).

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