Verifying “Unwritten” School Policies

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My son has many doctor’s appointments.  Last year we signed HIPPA rights at one doctor’s over to the school, but it was a mistake.  The school interfered by making extra appointments, canceling appointments when it was not convenient for them, all without our knowledge.

Now, the school says my son cannot miss a day of school even with a doctor’s excuse unless we sign full HIPPA rights over the them.

You have several questions about legal rights that we cannot answer without more information.  But there is one thing you can do now…

You say the school insists that no student can miss a day of school, even with a doctor’s excuse, unless the parent signs over the child’s HIPPA rights to them.  HIPPA is primarily to protect privacy.  I don’t know how a school could require a parent to sign over their child’s rights under any law.

Get a Copy of the Policy

It sounds like your school district may have implemented a policy about absences – or maybe they are just telling you that this is their policy (an unwritten policy).

You need to write a letter and request a copy of this policy.

Other Considerations

Assuming there is such a policy:

  • does it apply to all students in the district?
  • do all parents have to sign over rights to the school?

Depending on what you learn about this policy, you need to consult with an attorney who has expertise in special education law.  This attorney can help you decide what steps to take next.

  1. Parent thanks for your response. I do honestly believe that the Wrights want families and districts to work together as a team. However, in this case they have continued confusion rather than clarification.
    Signing a release is completely different than “signing over hippa rights”.
    In this case, as in most semantics matter. The authors of this blog are well aware of this distinction. They know that no district would ever ask to “sign over hippa rights”

  2. Ted,

    I agree that this makes no sense and seeing is believing. Had I not witnessed the same request for my child, I might find this request to be unlikely.

    Our reason for not signing a release is that the information might get shifted during translation. We paid our son’s Doctor to attend the IEP meetings and allowed school staff to ask questions in our presence.

    I have actually had the school’s attorney report to the IEP team that “An educational power of attorney is not recognized as a legal document by our school district”.

    The books that are written by Wrightslaw law stress the importance of schools and parents working together.

    The value of this blog is this is not the last time a parent of a child in special education will be asked to sign a waiver.

  3. My point is that the value of your blog, would greatly increase if you supplied supporting documentation. This post was a good example. “signing over hippo rights” there is nothing about that that makes sense. A blacked out copy would not only clarify and thus leverage the power of your readers, but solidify the severity / senserity of the post.

  4. LittlemeTG Medical Waiver. You know that a medical waiver can be unsigned any time by meeting with the person and stating that you want to be reinstated. You should not have any problem with that.

  5. Ted: I’m confused. What “sounds fishy”?

    Thousands of confused parents and teachers send questions to Wrightslaw every year. This question isn’t unusual which is why we posted it on the blog. I don’t think our answer relates to parents and schools acting as teams but maybe I missed your point.

  6. It seems that the school has made the family sign a “Medical Waiver” which unfortunately the family did and now results in the issues. Twice my county has tried to make me sign a medical waiver and both times I declined. I know of families who, after signing the waiver were taken “out of the loop” when creating accommodations for their child.

    Whatever you do, DON’T SIGN A MEDICAL WAIVER!!!

  7. Joint Guidance on the Application of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA) to Student Health Records….this is an excellent reference from the wrightslaw website on FERPA. Without more info it is hard to tell, but I can validate that schools really don’t know the difference……They sometimes do things just to protect themselves because they don’t know what law applies where ….Of course they should know ….but that is where the parent has to educate the school.

  8. Is the school paying for the medical services as a related service? It may be a reasonable “request” that you sign permission to review records if they are paying for the services if you choose to do so.

    I seriously doubt that there is a policy in place that mandates that you waive your right to medical privacy.

  9. In New York, school polices must be announced to the public in two separate board meetings before being adopted. All school polices must be written and are available to the public. If the rule does not meet these requirements, it is not policy, it is practice, and practice may be changed at any time by the school administrator. Additionally, every set of school policy I have seen starts with a policy that says any policy that is in contradiction of state or Federal law is null and void.

    A student that needs to make repeated visits to a doctor should be considered for a 504 plan at the least.

  10. Did you sign a consent with the doctor’s office, giving the doctor permission to talk to the school? Did you sign a consent with the school, giving the school permission to talk to your doctor? Why is the school district making or canceling appointments? Is the school taking your son to the doctor? This is very confusing. I work in the healthcare field, and there are severe penalties for violating HIPPA. Has the school also violated FERPA? The advice from Wrightslaw was absolutely correct. I would be asking a lot of questions of the school and of the doctor’s office. I would ask for a copy of the school policy. I would immediately consult a lawyer if the school does not produce a written policy. I would also immediately revoke any consents I had signed with the school and with the doctor. Good luck!

  11. This sounds fishy. Wrights law post are incredibly valuable for schools and families. A bias toward families weakens all posts. Families and schools are teams and efforts should be made to strengthen these teams. It would be helpful and valuable if you required documentation with your posts. This one doesn’t even make sense without more information.

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