Parents' Right to School Records of Special Ed Children

IDEA prohibits schools from denying records to parents of special needs kids

Mother and son with paperwork
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The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) gives parents of children with disabilities the right to review their school records. The IDEA law requires school districts to let parents inspect all special education records. If the parents request it, districts must provide a list of the types of records they keep as well as their location. They must also inform parents how the records factor into special education decision-making for their children.

Documents Available for Review

Parents have the right to review documents related to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of children with learning disabilities. They may also examine documentation related to the instructional and support services offered to ensure the student's access to a free, appropriate public education.

Records Parents Can Request

Parents may request a number of other materials related to their child's education. Such materials include an explanation of documents, such as evaluation reports or copies of records. Schools must provide a copy at no charge if parents cannot pay. The copies must be mailed to parents unable to pick them up.

Additionally, parents may request, with signed permission, that their representatives review records. In some cases, parents may want the district to remove incorrect information from the student's folder. The district must consider the request but may choose to keep documents in the folder if the information is deemed relevant to the child's educational program.

If the request is denied, the district must notify parents of their right to request a records hearing. A hearing concerning the students' records is different from a due process hearing under IDEA. Parents may write a statement explaining their objection to the material, however, and have it placed in the student's record.

Lastly, parents may review records before individual education program team meetings or a due process hearing.

The Responsibilities of School Districts 

Regulations take into account that school districts need a reasonable time frame to respond to parent requests. Districts may take up to 45 calendar days to respond.

School districts provide custodial and non-custodial parents access to their children's records unless there is a court order, law, or legal document (such as in a divorce or custody document) that terminates a parent's rights.

Districts must keep a record of anyone who accesses the child's special education records. The record must state the name of the person reviewing the file, the date and the reason for the review. The district does not have to keep a record of access by the parent, the child's teachers or other school staff with a legitimate educational reason for accessing the file.

If the record the parents wish to review contains information on other children, the parents can only have access to the information pertaining to their own children.

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