A law student attempting to transfer to another school was rejected on the basis of a letter written by one of his professors, falsely accusing him of dishonesty and cheating. A parent found a political critique of a speech his son had delivered on a local radio program entered in the student’s permanent record by the high school principal. Elsewhere, when a mother was told that psychological tests revealed that her daughter should repeat kindergarten, the mother’s request to see those test results was denied. Another parent who had gained access to his son’s school record was surprised to discover that it contained observations by his teachers that he was “strangely introspective,” “unnaturally interested in girls,” and, at the age of twelve, sported “peculiar political ideas.”
These are but a few examples of what one writer has called the “school record prison.” Students come and go, but the information in their school records remains behind to haunt them–or runs ahead to greet them many years later in an ill-fated employment interview. American schools today gather and create more information about students than those of any other country. Sophisticated evaluation techniques, computerized storage and retrieval systems, and a philosophy that seeks to educate and socialize the “whole child,” all contribute to the enthusiasm and reach of the modern data gatherers. Notably absent has been the realization that information is power, and that that power can be abused. The rights of students and their parents to control what information is entrusted to school recordkeepers–and to control what is done with it-have been largely ignored. Yet those rights do exist and are beginning to be asserted against a wide range of abuses.”
This Note examines the substance and sources of these rights, focusing on (1) the right to inspect school records; (2) the right to have them held in confidence from noneducational personnel; and (3) the right to challenge their contents. The preliminary section briefly outlines the history and current state of school record practices; succeeding sections discuss the treatment of student/parent rights in the common law, a sampling of state statutes, and important recent federal legislation-the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974. Finally, the constitutional dimensions of these rights will be explored.
The disciplinary exclusion of children with behavioral health conditions is rampant in public schools in the United States. The practice of suspending and expelling students with behavioral challenges, caused in part by a lack of understanding of the causes of
The Education for All Handicapped Children Act is a first step toward education for all, but more must be done to train teachers and change social attitudes.
Given the crucial importance of education for succeeding in modern society, students should not, in the name of school discipline, be unnecessarily denied the opportunity to receive an adequate education.
Juvenile inmates incarcerated as adults may be legally deprived of their freedom, but they should not also be deprived of an education tailored to their educational disabilities.