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Confidentiality and IEPs

02/10/11
by Pam Wright

I am the Assistant Coordinator of an Adult Learner Services program that assists adults who left high school before graduation. These students are now seeking a GED and often discuss the difficulty they had in school and their previous IEPs.

The program’s new Special Education Director stated that I should not ask about the IEP. It is against policy and rules of the Special Education Dept.

Is it “breaking the rules” to ask students about their concerns and what was included in the previous IEP?

There is no law that prohibits you from asking if a child has/had an IEP… or requesting a copy of the child’s file that includes evaluations and IEPs. You need this information to help your clients.

Many school administrators are woefully ignorant about confidentiality, often advising staff that IEPs should locked away so no one can see them. This is NOT legally correct.

The special education law specifically states that teachers, related services providers, and others who work with the child must have easy access to the child’s IEP. This is the only way the adults will know the student’s needs and what the adults need to do to meet the child’s needs.

Diplomacy Counts

When you work with administrators, you try to be diplomatic.

I’d write a polite letter, perhaps with a short summary of how you work with kids, and request the written policy that prohibits people in the helping professions from asking if a student has an IEP. You may find that the policy is “unwritten” or made up on the fly.

Another Question

You said:

I  recently went to a school meeting to discuss the law that began in July of 09 where no child can exit high school before the age of 18 (currently the age is 16).

I was surprised to hear this. There is no federal law about this so it must be a state law.

  • Have you seen and read it?
  • What is the purpose of such a law?
  • Will schools actually provide additional services that they didn’t provide for the first 10-11 years of the child’s school career?

As you probably know, schools can be cruel, unfriendly places for some students, especially children who “underachieve.” Many governors are moving to allow students to leave high school earlier, while providing more effective options to prepare kids for life after school.

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act

FERPA is a federal statute. The purposes of FERPA are twofold: to ensure that parents have access to their children’s educational records and to protect the privacy rights of parents and children by limiting access to these records without parental consent.

FERPA deals with access to educational records, parental right to inspect and review records, amendment of records, and destruction of records.

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7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 sheri 12/15/14 at 12:03 pm

    In an IEP meeting with SPED director and speech therapist, other children’s name on the schedule I am looking at to figure out a time for my child. They also infront of me discuss what a problem the number of children our school has on IEPs.

    Because I am on the board of our school and looking into special ed resources I requested the number of students we sent to summer school and the invoice of the cost. The email they sent to me contained the names of the children we sent.

    Isn’t this a violation of their privacy and do we need to notify them that this has happened.

  • 2 Wrightslaw 02/24/14 at 3:58 pm

    Gwindale – refer to this Joint Guidance on the application of the FERPA and HIPAA to student health records at http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/ferpa.jointguide.doe.pdf.

    You’ll find this document and other resources on the Wrightslaw FERPA page at http://www.wrightslaw.com/info/ferpa.index.htm

    You’ll find more about FERPA in your law book in Chapter 9 starting on p. 307. (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition, http://www.wrightslaw.com/store/selaw2.html)

  • 3 Gwindale 02/24/14 at 3:25 pm

    I am a special education teacher/administrative assistant who might be working with billing for my school and want to be as informed as possible about the difference between FERPA and HIPAA so as not to infringe on client/business relationships as related to privacy. Please advise.

    Thank you

  • 4 Lou 03/28/11 at 11:23 am

    I am missing where FERPA addresses teachers or aides discussing a student with an IEP, their behavior, etc. with parents of other children who attend the school. I have always been told confidentiality laws cover this but don’t find this exactly referenced.

  • 5 chris 02/18/11 at 11:44 am

    Child’s personal info sent to home of child predator due to wrong address typed by school. N.Y.S. Family Compliance Office has done nothing despite repeated requests by parent to do so. Any suggestions?

  • 6 Mike the psych 02/11/11 at 1:42 pm

    If the students are over 18 they likely control their records unless educational rights were transferred to another guardian or individual due to developmental concerns (such as in the case of individuals with severe cognitive and adaptive skill impairments). The school district should be able to provide any and all information as long as a FERPA release of information is signed by the student (if over 18) or whomever has educational rights for that student.

    Revealing a student even has or had an IEP is confidential information and is typically not shared due to privacy concerns in many districts. This practice is similar to outside medical and mental health agencies not sharing information due to HIPAA.

    The best practice is to simply seek a release of information between the district and the agency.

  • 7 Susan 2 02/10/11 at 1:45 pm

    One caution…When dealing with historical information be aware that a previous IEP may have been written under an older statute. IDEA 2004 changed many things. Also be aware of the rapid advances in diagnosis and treatment. The Tourettes community, for example, has seen a lot of change in meds used and treatment options, meaning that an IEP now would quite naturally look very different from one (if you got one) written years ago. If you are dealing with adults you might see this dynamic. From a practical standpoint, information is good. Those with hidden disabilities fight the confidential issue……it can be used in a negative way….makes it easy to ignore a disablity.