Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
Regardless of what type of legal or physical custody a parent exercises, under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”), all parents are provided with certain rights surrounding their ability to access their child’s educational records. For example, under FERPA, a school district must provide both parents with an equal right to access their child’s records, to seek correction of any inaccurate or misleading information contained in their child’s records, and in some cases, to first obtain the parents’ written permission before disclosing any information contained in their child’s records. This all occurs whether a parent exercises shared legal custody or no legal custody with the other parent.
FERPA defines the word “parent” to be a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or guardian.
Under FERPA, a parent is permitted full right to access their child’s educational records, unless a court order exists which specifically revokes this right. As such, in the absence of such an order, whenever a parent requests access to his or her child’s educational records, the school district MUST comply within 45 days of the request. Neither the school district, nor the custodial parent, has the right to deny a non-custodial parent’s request to access their child’s educational records. This law does not extend to the right of a non-custodial parent to be kept generally informed of their child’s progress in school, to have an expectation that parent/teacher conferences will be scheduled at the convenience of the non-custodial parent, or to be supplied with copies of general notices such as lunch menus, PTA information, extracurricular activity calendars, school calendars, etc., as these are NOT considered educational records. Report cards, PSSA testing information, IEP plans, and such, are educational records, which can be requested.
Under FERPA, any parent may request the opportunity to review his or her child’s records, at any time, and may physically present at the school to do so. In certain circumstances, due to impracticality, copies of the records may be mailed to the parent requesting them instead of requesting that parent to be physically present.