FERPA and Special Education

In “Guidance for Parents” (2011) the U.S. Department of Education pointed out how FERPA might affect the rights of special education students.

The Department said that under FERPA, a parent has the right to request that inaccurate or misleading information in his or her child’s education records be amended. While a school is not required to amend education records in accordance with a parent’s request, the school is required to consider the request. If the school decides not to amend a record in accordance with a parent’s request, the school must inform the parent of his or her right to a hearing on the matter. If, as a result of the hearing, the school still decides not to amend the record, the parent has the right to insert a statement in the record setting forth his or her views. That statement must remain with the contested part of the student’s record for as long as the record is maintained.

However, said the Department, while the FERPA amendment procedure may be used to challenge facts that are inaccurately recorded, it may not be used to challenge a grade, an opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about a student. FERPA was intended to require only that schools conform to fair record-keeping practices and not to override “the accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, or placement determinations.” Thus, while FERPA affords parents the right to seek to amend education records which contain inaccurate information, the Department believes that this right cannot be used to challenge a grade, an individual’s opinion, or a substantive decision made by a school about a student.

Such “substantive decisions” should include a PPT’s decision on the placement. That means that parents that disagreed with the PPT’s decision could say as much in their child’s records, but they have no power to use FERPA to change it.