Confidentiality and Access to Student Records

Help with Listen Feature Help with Listen Feature

Closeup of a black filing cabinet, with a key in its lock.December 2010

In Spanish | En español

IDEA and other federal laws protect the confidentiality of your child’s education records. These safeguards address the following three aspects:

  • the use of personally identifiable information;
  • who may have access to your child’s records; and
  • the rights of parents to inspect their child’s education records and request that these be amended to correct information that is misleading or inaccurate, or that violates the child’s privacy or other rights.

Quick-Jump Links

____________________________________

Personally Identifiable Information

Personally identifiable information refers to information that includes:

  • the name of the child, parent, or other family member;
  • the child’s address;
  • a personal number (such as the social security number or a student number); or
  • a list of personal characteristics or other information that would permit the child’s identification with reasonable certainty.

With some exceptions, you (as a parent) must give your consent before the school system may disclose your child’s personally identifiable information. These exceptions are specified by policies in your state in keeping with the regulations at §99.31 of FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. IDEA’s confidentiality regulations refer directly to FERPA. You have the right to know the policies used in your state regarding the collection, storage, disclosure to third parties, and destruction of your child’s personally identifiable information. You should be able to obtain this information (on your state’s policies) from the director of special education in your school district or from the State Department of Education.

Back to top

Access to Your Child’s Records

Access to the educational records of their children is often a concern of parents. In keeping with the requirements of FERPA, only certain individuals, in addition to yourself as the parent, may have access to your child’s records. These individuals may include, for example, teachers or administrators of the school or state who have a legitimate interest in the records. The school or other participating agency is obligated to keep a record of all interested parties who have accessed your child’s educational records that are collected, maintained, or used under Part B of IDEA (with the exception of parents and authorized employees of the agency). This record must include the name of the person who had access to the child’s records, the date, and the purpose for which the person was authorized to use the records.

Back to top

Parents’ Right to Inspect Their Child’s Records

IDEA guarantees you, as parents, the right to inspect and review any educational record of your child that the school system (or other participating agency) collects, maintains, or uses with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of your child, and the provision of FAPE (a free appropriate public education) to your child.

Here are the specifics of IDEA’s regulations.

Parent Rights

Parents can inspect and review educational records with respect to their child’s evaluation, identification, and placement; and the provision of FAPE. [§300.501(a)]

Parents can request explanations and interpretations of the records. [§300.613(b)(1)]

Parents can request copies of the records if not receiving copies would effectively prevent the parents from exercising their right to inspect and review those records. [§300.613(b)(2)]

Parents can request that their representative be given access to inspect and review the records. [§300.613(b)(3)]

Schools’ Rights and Responsibilities

Schools must comply with a parent’s request to inspect and review records without unnecessary delay before any meeting—regarding an IEP, a hearing or resolution session, and in no case more than 45 days after the request has been made. [§300.613(a)]

Schools must respond to reasonable requests for explanations and interpretations of the records. [§300.613(b)(1)]

Schools can charge a fee for copies of records made for parents, if the fee does not effectively prevent the parents from exercising their right to inspect and review those records. [§300.617(a)]

Schools may not charge a fee for searching for, or retrieving, a child’s records for parents. [§300.617(b)]

Back to top

Parents’ Right to Ask that the Records Be Amended

If parents believe that the information contained in their child’s records is inaccurate or misleading or that the information there violates the privacy or other rights of their child, they may ask the school system that maintains the information to amend it. The agency must decide, within a reasonable amount of time, if it is going to comply with the parents’ request or not. If the agency decides to refuse the request, it must inform the parents of that decision and indicate their right to ask for a due process hearing on the matter.

If you, as a parent, decide to dispute the school system’s decision in a due process hearing, you have the right to present evidence that demonstrates why you think the information in your child’s records should be amended. You also have the right (at your own expense) to be assisted or represented by one or more individuals selected by you, including an attorney. The hearing must be conducted by an individual who has no direct interest in its result.

After the hearing, the educational agency must issue its determination in writing within a reasonable amount of time. That determination must be based solely on the evidence presented in the hearing and must include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the determination. If the result of the hearing is favorable to you, the school system must amend your child’s records and inform you in writing that it has done so. On the other hand, if the result of the hearing is that the information about your child is not inaccurate or misleading, or does not violate your child’s privacy or other rights, then the school system must inform you, as parents, that you have the right to add a statement to your child’s records commenting on the information that has been under dispute and presenting the reasons you do not agree with it. The district must attach your statement to the records and maintain it there as long as the agency maintains the records. If your child’s records (or the part that’s under dispute) is disclosed by the agency to any other person, your statement must also be disclosed to that person.

IDEA adds another provision regarding educational records and the inclusion of discipline information in them. The state can require the school system to include in a child’s records a statement of any disciplinary action (current or past) taken against the child. This statement must be transmitted to the same extent that disciplinary information would be included in, and transmitted with, the school records of children without disabilities. [§300.576(a)]  The statement may include:

  • a description of the child’s conduct that gave rise to the disciplinary action;
  • a description of the disciplinary action that was taken; and
  • any other information that is pertinent to the safety of the child and others involved with the child.

If the state adopts such a policy, and the child moves from one school to another, the transmission of any of the child’s records must include the current IEP of the child and any statement of current or past disciplinary action taken against the child.

Back to top

Would you like to read about Other Procedural Safeguards?

Sure you do. Use the links below to go there quick!

Rights of parents:

  • to receive a complete explanation of all the procedural safeguards available under IDEA and the procedures in the state for presenting complaints;
  • to inspect and review the educational records of their child;   (you’re here right now)
  • to participate in meetings related to the identification, evaluation, and placement of their child, and the provision of FAPE (a free appropriate public education) to their child;
  • to obtain an independent educational evaluation (IEE) of their child;
  • to receive “prior written notice” on matters relating to the identification, evaluation, or placement of their child, and the provision of FAPE to their child;
  • to give or deny their consent before the school may take certain action with respect to their child;
  • to disagree with decisions made by the school system on those issues;
  • to use IDEA’s mechanisms for resolving disputes, including the right to appeal determinations.

Back to top

NOTICE: NICHCY is going away, but its resources are not. Find hundreds of legacy NICHCY publications, as well as our training curriculum on IDEA 2004, in the Center for Parent Information and Resource’s Library at http://www.parentcenterhub.org/resources. This website will remain available until September 30, 2014. After that date, web visitors will be automatically redirected to http://www.parentcenterhub.org.