The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, is a handy federal law for parents with kids with disabilities. It protects the privacy of student education records, but it also gives parents rights to access those records. That’s the part of the law we will be chatting about today.

First off, you can find the law here on ED.gov, the Department of Education’s web portal. The site has good information everywhere, but you can read the full act online here at GPOAccess.gov. Its good reading, and we’ll be choosing a few specific parts to highlight.

Next I’ll cover a few definitions. They are in the text, but to save time a few important ones are below.

SEA – State Education Agency, for Virginia it is the Virginia Department of Education. However, the law covers “an SEA and its components” which “constitute an educational agency or institution.” That means every school system is governed by this law.

Educational Record – “any 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.”

So how does this work? Well, when we filed a FERPA request with our son’s first elementary school I sent a form letter via certified mail with return receipt to about 10 different people, including the principal, head of special services, school superintendent and several other folks on his IEP team. I specifically requested email records, which I received after some discussion. A copy of my letter is below. Feel free to use it, copy it, steal from it or make any changes you need to make it work for you.

From:

Re:

To Whom It May Concern ,

This letter is our formal written notice that we request copies of any and all education records as defined by the Regulations Governing Special Education Programs For Children With Disabilities In Virginia. Their definition, as copied below, includes all scholastic records, email correspondence and education records.

“Education record” means those records that are directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency or institution or by a party acting for the agency or institution. The term also has the same meaning as “scholastic record.” In addition to written records, this also includes electronic exchanges between school personnel and parent(s) regarding matters associated with the child’s educational program (e.g., scheduling of meetings or notices). This term also includes the type of records covered under the definition of “education record” in the regulations implementing the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act. (20 USC § 1232g(a)(3); § 22.1-289 of the Code of Virginia; 34 CFR 300.611(b))

1. Access rights. (34 CFR 300.613)
a. The local educational agency shall permit the parent(s) to inspect and review any education records relating to their children that are collected, maintained, or used by the local educational agency under this chapter. The local educational agency shall comply with a request without unnecessary delay and before any meeting regarding an IEP or any hearing in accordance with 8VAC20-81-160 and 8VAC20-81-210, or resolution session in accordance with 8VAC20-81-210, and in no case more than 45 calendar days after the request has been made.
b. The right to inspect and review education records under this section includes:
(1) The right to a response from the local educational agency to reasonable requests for
explanations and interpretations of the records;
(2) The right to request that the local educational agency provide copies of the records
containing the information if failure to provide those copies would effectively prevent the
parent from exercising the right to inspect and review the records; and
(3) The right to have a representative of the parent inspect and review the records.
c. A local educational agency may presume that a parent has authority to inspect and review records relating to the parent’s children unless the local educational agency has been provided a copy of a judicial order or decree, or other legally binding documentation, that the parent does not have the authority under applicable Virginia law governing such matters as guardianship, separation, and divorce.

It is our opinion that there are conversations regarding our son that we are not privy to, and we will find out what has been said. We are also requesting these records from . In addition we have copied this letter to . My wife and I will both review all records for discrepancies. We will expect these records within 5 business days of your receipt of this letter. Also, we have included copies of the letters sent to your employees for your review.

Regretfully,

CC:

 

Next up: My phone conversation with the Department of Education. You can read it here at https://raynelsonrealtor.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/the-family-educational-rights-and-privacy-act-or-ferpa-part-2-q-a-with-doe/

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