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What Schools Can Do To Comply With Laws Restricting Some "Non-Custodial" Parents' Access to His or Her Child's School Records - A Checklist for School Officials

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Produced by Massachusetts legal services' Domestic Violence and School Safety Workgroup
Created January, 2007

Send a form letter to all parents saying that

A parent who has been denied legal custody or ordered to have supervised visitation, based on a threat to the safety of the student specified in the order, or who has been denied visitation, or whose access to the student is restricted by a protective restraining order, may not have access to school records unless the order specifically allows access to the records.

where there is a custody, visitation, or restraining order or a court order specifically restricting an abusive parent’s access to the school records, the school urges the protected parent to bring a copy of the order to the school principal.

a parent’s status as a “custodial” or “non-custodial” parent may affect the rights of access to school records of the “non-custodial” parent, and that therefore if parents become involved in custody proceedings, they should provide the school with a copy of each custody order that a court issues concerning the student.

when a “non-custodial” parent requests access to school records, the “custodial” parent will receive notice of the request and that there is a 21 day waiting period before the records will be released unless the custodial parent provides the principal with documentation that the non-custodial parent is not eligible for access to the records in English and the primary language of the custodial parent.

the notice of the request and waiting period are written in English and the primary language of the custodial parent.

when a “non-custodial” parent is entitled to access to school records and has received notice of a school meeting or proceeding, that, by itself, does not mean that that parent is entitled to participate in the meeting or proceeding.

Include in the form letters a card or page which says, in the most common languages spoken by parents in the school district, “Check here and return this card to the school if your primary language is ___________” , e.g., espaňol, portugués, kreyol.

Collaborate with “custodial” parents and parents who have custody orders and orders restricting access to school records.

Meet with the parent who has a custody order or an order specifically restricting access to school records and review each of the terms of the order with the parent so that the meaning of each term is mutually understood with respect to access to school records.

Place a copy of the order in the student’s school record.

Provide copies of the order to key school personnel who may have contact with the parent whose records access may be restricted.

Note the expiration date of the order, if any.

Have a conversation with the parent about her plans concerning extending the order when it is set to expire.

Have a conversation with the parent about how, within the terms of the order, the school can best support the order being obeyed.

Have a conversation with the parent about whether there is any school records information which the parent wants made available to the restricted parent, and how that information might be made available, safely.

Discuss and implement a secure means for communicating the information developed in these conversations to key school personnel.

Make school personnel who have regular or frequent contact with the parent or child available to the parent, at the parent’s request, to discuss the terms of the custody order or restricted records access order.

Provide “custodial” parents with the opportunity to review the records to be sure that all direct and indirect information about where she and the child live or where she works is removed from records that are provided to the non-custodial parent.

In each record, note all direct and indirect information which has been identified for removal from records that are provided to the non-custodial parent.

Remove all such information from the records each time they are provided to the non-custodial parent.

Ask the “custodial” parent if she has any documents, including a letter from her attorney, she would like to have placed in the student’s record which indicate a non-custodial parent’s access to the student’s record is limited or restricted.”

Review the school “directory information” with the parent, inform the parent that the “directory information” can be released without her prior consent, offer her the opportunity to request that the information not be released without her prior consent, and honor requests not to release “directory information.”

Honor a parent’s request not to release directory information.

Mark all records provided to a non-custodial parent that the records shall not be used to enroll the student in another school.

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