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The Special Ed Advocate Newsletter
October 24, 2001

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Issue: 138
ISSN: 1538-3202


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Highlights: Mom needs crash course in advocacy; parent access to education records; test protocols and answer sheets; U. S. Supreme Court to hear case about grades.

Subscribers on October 24 2001: 31,841


1. Mom Needs Crash Course in Advocacy!

"I have a FERPA problem. I spent four hours making phone calls to the school to get copies of my son's records. The school says federal law gives them 45 days to honor my request. They hung up on me! Do I have to wait 45 days? What can I do?"

This mom says, "I have a FERPA problem. What can I do?"

We say, "FERPA is the least of your problems. You need a crash course in advocacy!"

We offer a Wrightslaw Game Plan to help this parent get copies of her son's records -- and rebuild damaged relationships with school personnel.


2. Learn About FERPA: Parent Right to Inspect and Review Education Records

Parents have a right to inspect and review all education records relating to their child. This right to "inspect and review" includes the right to have copies of records and to receive explanations and interpretations from school officials.

What are "education records"?

Education records are instructional materials "including teacher's manuals, films, tapes, or other supplementary material which will be used in connection with any survey, analysis, or evaluation of a student."

Education records are IEPs, tapes of IEP meetings, and letters between parents and schools.

Want to learn more about FERPA? Read this short FAQs article on FetaWeb

* What is FERPA?
* What are education records?
* What are the parent's rights to inspect and review?
* When may records be disclosed?


3. Test Protocols and Answer Sheets: Can Parents Receive Copies?

When we speak at conferences, parents say, "The school will not let us have copies of test protocols/answer sheets because they are copyrighted. Is this true?"

Last weekend, a Houston parent reported, "The district refuses to let me have a copy of the Childhood Autism Rating Scale because it is copyrighted. I have a Master's degree in counseling and written permission from the publisher to purchase and administer this test. The school says I must be in due process and use a subpoena to get a copy of this protocol."

These parents are getting bad advice. This bad advice supports our position that parents must learn to do legal research on their own. Do not accept legal advice from school personnel.

In 1997, the Office for Civil Rights issued a Memorandum about test protocols and answer sheets. Test protocols used by psychologists to prepare reports are educational records. Test booklets that identify students are education records. Booklets that include questions and answers are education records.

Your right to "inspect and review" your child's education records includes copies of test protocols and answer sheets. FERPA does NOT create an exception for "copyrighted materials."

Read the letter from LeRoy Hooker, FERPA Compliance Officer, to learn about test protocols and answer sheets.


4. Are Grades in Education Records U. S. Supreme Court to Decide

In Falvo v. Owasso Indep. School District, the U. S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit was asked to decide if allowing students to grade one another's papers and call grades out in class violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

Background

Kristja Falvo is the mother of three children who attended school in Owasso Independent School District. Sometimes, the teachers had their students grade one another's assignments and tests. The students called out their grades to the teacher. Ms. Falvo complained to school personnel because her children were embarrassed when other students learned their grades. The district continued to use this grading practice.

When the court examined the practice of having students grade one another's tests and other work and to call out their grades in class, the court found that this practice violates FERPA:

"The plain language of the relevant provision of FERPA . . . reveals that it is intended to protect the privacy of students and their parents . . . an educational agency or institution is absolutely precluded from receiving federal funds if it maintains a policy or practice of allowing disclosure of education records to unauthorized individuals or entities without parental consent."

Can Parents Challenge Grades?

According to FERPA, schools must provide parents an opportunity to challenge the content of education records. Does this include grades?

"The School District asserts that Congress could not have reasonably intended to allow parents to challenge in a hearing the accuracy of a grade placed on a student's homework or test by another student."

"To the contrary, Congress could have sensibly intended to provide parents a means to challenge the accuracy of grades on individual homework and test papers. Indeed, a challenge to "institutional records" such as a semester grade might necessarily require an investigation into the accuracy of the individual homework and test grades used to calculate the final semester grade."

"Imagine a student who . . . records grades on another student's papers which are lower than that which the student actually earned. Such inaccurate student grading could significantly impact the slighted student's more permanent grades. In such a situation, a parent has a definite and strong need to challenge the accuracy of the student-recorded grades."

To read this decision and learn more about rights under FERPA please visit the wrightslaw site.

NOTE: The district appealed this decision to the U. S. Supreme Court. The Court will hear oral argument on November 27, 2001. A decision is expected during the 2001-2002 term. We will advise newsletter subscribers when the high court issues a decision in this case.


5. FETA Gets Good Frades from Parent Advocates

"From a parent's point of view, From Emotions to Advocacy is the best book I've ever read about the process. It is written simply so I can understand it."

"I would have given anything to have had this book years ago, before my little girl was placed in a self-contained classroom with boys. She is now in a regular education class. She is struggling but happy!"

"With the help of your site and your books, I learned she has rights -- and I learned to advocate for her."

Order FETA

Learn more about FETA


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Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, by Pam and Pete Wright
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Wrightslaw: All About IEPs
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Wrightslaw: All About Tests and Assessments
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Surviving Due Process: Stephen Jeffers v. School Board
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