Parents and Students Have a Right to Request Amendment or Removal of an Education Record
Students ages 18+ and parents of students under age 18 have a right under federal law to request removal or amendment of inaccurate files contained in the student’s education record. The right exists under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) and it applies to students of all ages (pre-school to Ph.D.) who attend or attended schools that receive federal funding. This includes all public schools and many private schools.
Initial Request to Amend of Remove an Education Record
If a parent or student believes an education record (including any disciplinary record or special education record) contains information that is inaccurate, misleading, or in violation of the student’s privacy, they must start by requesting that the school remove or amend the record. 34 C.F.R. § 99.20. Although not required, it is best to make the initial request in writing.
Under FERPA, the school must then decide, within a reasonable time, whether or not to amend the record as requested. If it complies with the request, the process ends.
If the school decides not to amend or remove the record as requested, it must notify the parent or student of its decision and also inform the parent or student that they have a right to a hearing on the matter. Id.
Required Hearing and Applicable Rules
A school must provide a parent or student, on request, a hearing to challenge the content of the student’s education records on the grounds listed above. 34 C.F.R. § 99.21. The hearing must be held within a reasonable time following the request. The school must give the parent or student notice of the date, time, and place, reasonably in advance of the hearing. 34 C.F.R. § 99.22.
The hearing may be conducted by any person, including any school official, who does not have a direct interest in the outcome of the hearing. The school must give the parent or student a full and fair opportunity to present evidence relevant to the request for amendment or removal. The parent or student may be represented by an attorney at their own expense.
Following the hearing, the school must deliver its decision in writing within a reasonable period of time. The decision must be based solely on the evidence presented at the hearing and must include a summary of the evidence and the reasons for the decision.
Good Outcome: Written Notice That the File Will be Amended
If, as a result of the hearing, the school decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy rights of the student, it must: (1) amend the record accordingly; and (2) inform the parent or student of the amendment in writing. 34 C.F.R. § 99.21.
Bad Outcome: Right of Parent or Student to Place a Statement in the Record
If, as a result of the hearing, the school decides that the information in the record is not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the student’s privacy, it must inform the parent or student that they may place a statement in the record commenting on the contested information or indicating why they disagree with the decision of the school, or both. Id.
If the parent or student provides a statement and the school places it in the student’s record, the school must: (1) maintain the statement with the contested part of the record for as long as the record itself is maintained; and (2) disclose the statement whenever it discloses the portion of the record to which the statement relates. Id.
What to Do When a School Refuses to Follow the Process
A parent of a student may file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office of the U.S. Department of Education regarding any alleged violation of FERPA. The Complaint form is available at http://familypolicy.ed.gov/complaint-form.