Access to Student Records by a Parent
You are the new leader of Millwood Middle School. You have only been in the position for one month, however you feel you have a firm grasp on the duties and the operational challenges of the school. As the new school leader you have many challenges that you are responsible for including the supervision of your staff. One of the staff members in particular is Mrs. Pine who has been Millwood Middle school secretary for more than 20 years. Mrs. Pine knows everyone in the school and the community and she tends to take matters into her own hands when making decisions at the school. The majority of her decisions are without your knowledge.
Today you received in the mail a certified letter from a very upset parent, Mr. Bridges who had requested all of his son’s records more than three months ago. The records he requested were to include educational, medical, attendance, and behavior. The letter was very clear in the respect that he made the request per the policy of the school board. The request was in writing and that he even called the school to follow up on the request several times. Mr. Bridges’ letter indicated that he was very concerned with his son’s attendance and health, he went on to say how disappointed he was in the school for not allowing him to receive a copy of the records requested. Mr. Bridges wanted to let you know that he was contacting an attorney and was going to file a lawsuit against you and the school district.
As the leader of the school you were honestly caught off guard with this letter due to the fact that this is the first you have heard about this request. You immediately asked Mrs. Pine if she knew about the request and she, without hesitation, said yes, of course I know about it. Mrs. Pine explained that she had received the request a few months back and decided not to provide the records to Mr. Bridges because she called Mr. Bridges ex-wife and she explained that she had total custody of her son and not to give her ex-husband anything. Mrs. Bridges assured Mrs. Pine that she had court order barring Mr. Bridges from any contact with his son and he did not have any permission to get any records from the school.
You then asked Mr. Pine a few other questions and you found out that Mr. Bridges son’s attendance was in fact irregular and that he often goes to the school nurse. Mrs. Pine said that she had personally reviewed the son’s records and it was shown in the nurse report that there were visible bruises on his arms and legs from time to time. Mrs. Pine told you that she handled this request because she knew the background and did not want to bother you.
As the school leader it is your responsibility to investigate this matter. As you consider the next steps please respond to the following questions:
How does this scenario apply to a student’s right to privacy?
What responsibility does the school district have to provide student records to non-custodial parents?
Who, within the school district has the right to review school records?
Are there any timelines for responding to a legitimate request for student records?
What are certain procedures that a school leader should have in place regarding student record requests?
Does the school have any legal liability in this situation?
What rights does the custodial parent have in denying the non-custodial parent’s request to view student records?
What actions if any, would you take with Mrs. Pine and why?