Legal Question in Education Law in California

History: Non-custodial Parent; I have a court order that states I have access to health, mental, dental and school records. I do not live in the same state where my child attends school.

In September 2012 I submitted a written request for my daughter's school records at the school where she attends. I also gave them a copy of the judicial order which the attendance clerk stated would be kept on file in the school. I had no issues getting copies of my child's school records. But later on found out it was an incomplete copy of her records because it never included any of her behavioral records. I was also told that the school district office only has the 2011-2012 school records available at the office. I was told that any current records for the 2012-2013 school years are kept at the school. I was told for future request to go directly to the principal and submit a request. Which I did.

My second Request for my daughter's school records:

I emailed the principal and requested she email me the doctor’s note that excused my daughter from school. The principal took a few days to get back to me. When the principal got back to me via email she stated she talked with her "Director of Child Welfare" and the director told her that because I do not have "Full Educational Rights" that I am not allowed to have access to the doctors excuse I wanted emailed to me. She told me to contact her father and get the doctor’s note from him. Since there is a stay away order and the school also has that on file it is impossible to do that.

I emailed the principal and included all of the federal laws "FERPA", the state laws and the school districts policies and procedures. All of which indicate that being a non-custodial parent you have the right to access any and all of your child’s school records. Also if I have a judicial order that states I have access to my child’s records I could take legal action against the person that is denying me the right to access my child's records.

After the principal read the email that included the laws, policies and procedures she emailed me back and asked for my mailing address.

I responded and gave her my mailing address.

I then asked the principal to receive any and all copies of any documents that are related to my daughter and to receive copies of her entire school records. My request stated it is to include and not be limited to attendance records, behavioral records, doctor’s notes, notes from teachers, recommendations for summer school, recommendations to see the counselor etc. The principal response told me that since I requested my daughter's records back in September 2012 that everything was up to date and I had all current documents on my child. The principal stated since I have made an excessive amount of requests for my child's school records that she is sending my request to "Student Services." Which that person in student services was CC'd on this email. I tried communicating with the principal and even sent her another email telling her that she is breaking the federal/state laws and the school districts policies and procedures. The principal still refused me access.

Since I did not received a timely response from the principal or student services I emailed the Superintendents. I made sure to include all of the email correspondence me and the principal had and her denying me access. The Superintendents referred me back to Student Services.

It has been 45+ days since I put in my original request for my daughter's school records clearly breaking the Federal Law FERPA. I know that FERPA says the school has 45 days to respond to any and all requests from parents to access/get copies of their child’s school records.

The school district policy states that the school has 5 days to respond/meet the parent’s requests to access/get copies of their child's school records. Which of course has been broke.

As the principal stated above she forwarded my request for my child’s school records to a woman in "Student Services" was on March 13th, 2013. The woman in "Student Services" never responded to me until March 22nd 2013. Which is clearly once again violating the school districts policies and procedures of responding within 5 days to a request for records by a parent.

I was told by this woman in "Student Services" that this is all the records I have on your child and I had an attachment that included the sign in and sign out sheet of when my child was checked out of school, her behavioral record since 2011 which was never included in my first request. These actions are leading me to believe that there is something they are covering up.

My child has been in 6 physical altercations, my child went to her teacher/principal and counselor and told them her father was bullying her by pushing her off of the couch, pushing up against her and bumping his chest against her to make her fall, calling her names etc. and there is no documentation of this ever happening, her current teacher requested she be seen by the school counselor which never happened, the school is accepting appointment cards to excuse a child for absence(s) when their "Student/Parent Handbook" clearly states we will only accept a doctor’s note to excuse your child’s absence, my child was suspended 1 out of her 6 times she assaulted another student and it is classified as her 2nd offense, on the day she was suspended her attendance records states she was there at school and no suspended and it was out of school suspension, I do not receive the weekly reports that my ex receives about her behavior/academic status, I have not received any of the school communication that I am supposed to under the school policies and procedures and they have had my address on file since 2011. The list goes on but these are some of the major offenses that this school has committed and I want justice.

As you can see I am very frustrated and I want to know what steps I can take to receive my child’s records. I want to know what I can do and if it would be worth to sue for mental anguish and being treated like a piece of u know what. I feel that they are hiding something and that is the reason why I have not received a true, complete copy of my daughter's school records.

Can you please assist me and give me advice as to how to deal with this situation. I am seeking an attorney that may be willing to take this pro-bono if we can sue for them breaking judical orders, mental anguish and purposely withholding my daughters school records etc. Or see how much a retainer would cost for me to pursue a civil suit against the principal, the attendance clerk, the school district and the superintendents.

Look I know if I find the right attorney we can work this out but I would like some advice as to what I can do either on my own or with an attorney that is willing to pick up my case an sue.

Asked on 4/29/13, 2:50 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Andrew Harrell W. Andrew Harrell, Attorney at Law

You haven't mentioned which county has jurisdiction over this matter; i.e., the superior court which has jurisdiction over the family law issues, which issued the order re custody, parental rights, etc. Rather than waste your time, go back to the family law court and obtain an order demanding that the school district, principal, et al. comply with your right to access these records. But, before you do that, call up the school district and ask to talk to the general counsel for the school board. (This is the lawyer who represents the school district. They probably won't know what you are talking about, but ask that their lawyer call you back before the day is over.) Don't bother talking to any bureaucrat, flunky, teacher, principal. Explain the problem to the lawyer very briefly, and inform him/her that you expect prompt delivery of all of your child's records within 48 hours. If they don't comply or want to argue the issue, extend an invitation to the lawyer to do that in court, where you will seek damages, including costs for a lawyer. People in education don't really know the law or believe that it necessarily applies to them. I guarantee you will catch their attention, however.

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Answered on 4/29/13, 5:31 pm

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