Little boy in schoolYour child’s school will begin a file during kindergarten that will follow him until graduation from high school. This “cumulative file” will contain past and present grades, scores on standardized tests, and attendance records. It may also contain comments from teachers about your child’s school performance. The school nurse and the special services department (if your child receives special ed) may also keep separate records.

In keeping records on your child, all New Jersey public schools must comply with the practices detailed in the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (also called FERPA), a federal law. This law outlines who has access to your child’s records. It also describes safeguards to ensure that the records are not misused.

The law gives parents the right to review their child’s school records within 45 days of making a request. Parents have a choice of reviewing them in private or having a school official help interpret them. If you wish, you can have someone review the records with you. You’re allowed to take notes from the records and are also entitled to copies, 
although the school district may charge you a duplication fee. When your child reaches the age of 18 or begins attending a post-secondary school, she also becomes eligible to review these records.

For the Record

In general, schools must have written permission from the parents (or the student, where eligible) to release information from the student’s record. There are, however, a few exceptions to this rule. School staff members who are involved with your child’s education are entitled to review them without your consent. Similarly, they may be reviewed without parental permission in response to a court order. The school district is required to maintain a list of people who have reviewed a student’s records.

If you want to examine your child’s 
records, contact the principal. She may ask that you put this request in writing. School administrators are usually well versed in the rights of parents to review their child’s records and should not restrict your access. A good time to do this is when you are moving to another school district.

In reviewing your child’s school records, you have the right to request that the school correct or remove information you believe to be inaccurate or misleading. You also have the right to insert in the file a statement explaining the reasons for your disagreement. While these kinds of disputes can usually be resolved in a non-confrontational manner, you’re entitled to a hearing if you remain dissatisfied.

Special education records for students who have educational disabilities are also safeguarded under the FERPA law.

Dr. Kenneth Shore, a psychologist, teaches part-time at Rutgers. He has authored six books and created a film series on bullying. You may contact Dr. Shore by email.