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School Suspends Child, Refuses Parent's Request to View the Evidence Video

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The school suspended my child for 30 days because he was allegedly disruptive on the bus. My child claims he did nothing wrong and was following his Behavior Management Plan by maintaining self-control.

The school refuses to allow me to see the video of his behavior because this would "violate the privacy rights of other children". Can the school refuse to allow me to see the video they are using to justify suspending him?

Can the school do this?

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 questions is "yes," the school's "privacy issue" argument doesn't hold water. 

There are no laws that prevent 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? 

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

Some school officials use "privacy arguments" to prevent parents from observing their child or having access to their child's records (that include videos) 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. Other school officials take this position when they believe they may have made a mistake.

FERPA Request

The parent needs to write a letter to the school to request a complete copy of their child's cumulative and confidential files, omitting nothing. Under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), parents have a right to access to their children's educational records. The videotape 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 after receiving the 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 learn about FERPA in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 3rd Edition 

So what's going on? What's driving the school to take this position? Does the school want to get rid of this kid? Stonewalling about the video makes me curious about what the tape will show.

Keep us posted!

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