Confidentiality and IEPs

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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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07/22/2020 1:42 pm

I want to know which steps do I take. Last year my son IEP teacher discussed his information with parents. This year we had a tele conference for his IEP. And another parent kept coming in on the call. While we where discussing his IEP. Can I sue them?

Last edited 2 months ago by Jane
04/30/2020 7:41 pm

Our team has been working to complete my son’s IEP since October. Earlier this month, the district’s superintendent informed me via email that a consultant had been hired to help the district with completing the IEP. I have signed no release of information form – is this a violation of FERPA?

05/03/2020 10:14 pm
Reply to  Kris

Kris, it isn’t unusual for school districts to hire consultants to assist especially with cases that are complex or may go to litigation.

Just wondering
04/03/2020 6:49 am

Can an Earlychildhood Director tell another family about another child’s IEP and what it entails?

04/08/2020 2:08 pm
Reply to  Just wondering

Did the Early Childhood Director provide confidential information about the child and/or family? What did the person reveal?

12/18/2019 4:44 pm

Recently a school social worker claimed she left papers concerning my son’s Iep info and psychological assessment in my door but the papers were found outside my door on the ground by my neighbor. I called the school to complain and I was told she was trying to meet a deadline before an Iep meeting for him , as to why it was done that way. I thought my it was wrong because it contains confidential information regarding my son.

12/19/2019 9:07 am
Reply to  Moore

It was obviously a mistake. It sounds like they were going above and beyond to get your son’s IEP completed on time. If it was me, unless my son was harmed in some way, I would be focused on more pressing issues.

I believe we have a finite amount of goodwill “in reserve” with the school’s we work with. We need to use it wisely. Make a big noise over big issues and let the small issues go – you won’t be seen as “that parent” that puts everyone on defense even before the next meeting starts.

07/30/2019 8:07 pm

Can an afterschool program or summer camp ask if my child has an IEP, 504, or behavior plan as part of enrollment? The section is not optional and if YES then an additional form must be completed to determine enrollment. Is this an ethics issue? Secondly, it is a private community program not associated with the school.

07/31/2019 11:27 am
Reply to  Jess

Not sure, but I think that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) does not include programs like this. Certain situations & organizations are excluded., & this may be one of them. Anyone know for sure?

08/02/2019 10:15 am
Reply to  Jess

I’m not a lawyer, so keep that in mind…but I’m pretty sure if the program is open to the public and engaged in a commercial (for profit) activity, they cannot discriminate. If this was a non-profit type charity that organized the camp they may be able to exclude some kids.

However, if this camp is included under Title III, they may NOT screen children (asking for IEP’s etc.) for the purpose of excluding them, but they CAN screen children for the purpose of ensuring they have the accommodations and safety needs in place for that child.

02/01/2019 9:03 pm

Hi. Could you please tell me where I can find the information in your article?

“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. ”

I cannot find a law about special education that states the information from your article.

I am a student at Northern Arizona University that has spent many hours in the classroom. I will be graduating this year and have only been allowed to see IEPs if the student was 18 years old and gave me permission. I have never been allowed to see an IEP of a student with special needs that I was working with. Which is frustrating for both of us.

If I could get my hand on a clear and concise law, I would like to bring it with me. Thanks

02/03/2019 6:19 pm
Reply to  Robin

Robin, The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act has implementing regulations that provide more info about what the law requires.

The answer to your question is in Regulation 300.323(d) – (see pages 248-9 in Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd edition,

We offer student discounts of 25-40% – 😉

09/12/2016 1:54 pm

Are teachers allowed to speak to another parent about certain topics discussed during an iep meeting?

09/02/2016 7:39 am

Just a quick question… I work for the school system, and I believe that some HIPAA, FERPA rights has been violated, by a supervisor who has let someone who does not have an upper management position handle and look over and handle students IEP’s with there full P.H.I along with social security numbers, address, and confidential health information. Should I go to HR ? I’m in the state of North Carolina if that helps

08/05/2015 12:04 pm

I think ferpa is written for more kids in college than special need kids. I think parents name and what they say should be protected under confidentiality law. Since parents are involved in meeting and want their confidentiality protect. Is there any way to change it?

12/15/2014 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.

02/24/2014 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

02/24/2014 3:58 pm
Reply to  Gwindale

Gwindale – refer to this Joint Guidance on the application of the FERPA and HIPAA to student health records at

You’ll find this document and other resources on the Wrightslaw FERPA page at

You’ll find more about FERPA in your law book in Chapter 9 starting on p. 307. (Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Edition,

03/28/2011 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.

02/18/2011 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?

Mike the psych
02/11/2011 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.

02/10/2011 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.