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Child Suspended, Can School Refuse Parent's Request for Video?

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boy making faceA child was suspended for 30 days because he was allegedly disruptive on the bus. (The child maintains he did nothing wrong and says he was following his Behavior Management Plan by maintaining "self control.")

The school won't allow his parent to see a video of his behavior because this is a "privacy issue" for other children. Is this true?

From Wrightslaw

Before we answer this question, here are three questions for you to answer: 

1. Are parents allowed to visit their child's school? (To meet with a teacher, pick a child up for a doctor's appointment, etc.)

2. Are parents allowed to go on field trips?

3. Are parents allowed to do volunteer work at the school?

Assuming the answer to these question is "yes," the school's "privacy issue" argument doesn't hold water. 

No law prevents parents from knowing the identity of kids who attend school, or kids who are in their child's class, or kids who ride the school bus.

Why won't the school officials allow the parent to view the video of her son's behavior - especially when they are using "evidence" from the video to suspend him for 30 days? 

Sometimes, school officials are ignorant -- they haven't read the law and regulations and interpret the law incorrectly. 

Sometimes, school officials use "privacy arguments" to prevent parents from observing their child or having access to the child's records (including the video) because they want to show the parent who's boss. "This is MY school and I'll run it as I see fit!" This happens when school officials believe their authority is being questioned by a parent. It also happens when school officials believe they may have made a mistake. 


FERPA Request 

Help the parent write a letter to the school, requesting a complete copy of the child's cumulative and confidential files, omitting nothing. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents have a right to have access to their children's educational records. The video tape is an educational record under FERPA.

FERPA is a federal law that affords parents the right to have access to their children's education records, the right to seek to have the records amended, and the right to have some control over the disclosure of information from the records. 

FERPA requires that the school comply with a parent's request for access to the student's records within 45 days of the receipt of a request. Generally, a school is required to provide copies of education records to a parent if the failure to do so would prevent the parent from exercising the right to inspect and review the records. 

The purpose of FERPA is to protect the student's privacy interests in "education records."

"Education records" are broadly defined 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. 20 U.S.C. §1232g(a)(4)(A)." 
You'll find the complete FERPA statute and regulations in our book, Wrightslaw: Special Education Law

Does the school want to get rid of this kid? This stonewalling on the video makes me curious about what the tape will show. 

Keep us posted!

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