If you have or will have a child enrolled in your local public school system, being informed about your rights as a parent and your child’s rights as a student are both critical.
For many of us, especially for parents whose children are just starting school, school can send you right back to your own childhood. Teachers can seem intimidating, addressing administrators or, heaven forbid your local school board seems like something you should leave to the “real” grown ups. Guess what? YOU are the real grown up and even if you feel unsure on the inside, everyone else only sees you-the-grown-up. Information is power – the more informed you are the more confident you’ll be in the event you must deal with school officials.
1. You Have The Right To Request And Review Your Child’s School Records.
If you are concerned there are inaccuracies on you child’s school records or if you simply are curious, the easiest route to take is to simply ask your child’s teacher or even at the front desk. Many schools, provided you have proper identification, are happy to quickly give you a copy of your child’s records. If your school is not as forthcoming, submit a written request for your child’s information. The school has a maximum of 45 days to provide this information.
- If there are inaccuracies or if you would like to add a statement to your child’s records, you have the right to request a hearing. The school must give you notice of the hearing within a reasonable amount of time. You can bring an attorney (at your expense) to the hearing. No matter the outcome of the hearing, you are allowed to have your statement attached to your child’s records and that statement must be disclosed whenever those records are shared.
2. Understand State And Federal Disclosure Laws.
At the beginning of a school year, you will usually be given a form to sign allowing the school to disclose information about your child (generally this information does not specifically identify your child). If you are not clear on what will be disclosed and to whom information is being given – don’t sign until you are.
3. You Have The Right To File A Formal, Federal Complaint With The Family Policy Compliance Office.
- When all else fails, you have the right to file a formal complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office (FPCO). The complaint must be received within 180 days of the beginning of the problem. The FPCO will investigate your claim and determine if your school has failed to follow the FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) guidelines.
These are your basic rights as a parent with a child in the public school system. Remember, though, that most people are not working for the school system for the glamor or the money – they have a real desire to help kids get the best education possible. In your dealings with teachers and administrators there is no need to be confrontational. Give the people in your local school the benefit of the doubt. If after trying to deal in a kind rational manner you are making no progress, then you are within your rights to change the tone of the conversation.
If the situation escalates and your child is no longer learning effectively in their classroom. There are several options available outside of the school. For children with special needs, often Special Needs Tutoring along with additional Special Education Resources can help keep them running down the path of success while the mess with the school system gets figured out.