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IDEA Complaint Decision 07-089

On November 29, 2007 (letter dated November 26), the Department of Public Instruction received a complaint under state and federal special education law from XXXXX against the Elmbrook School District. This is the department’s decision regarding that complaint. The issue is whether the district properly responded to the parent’s September 2007 request that the district amend his children’s education records. In his letter to the department, the parent also alleges district staff improperly disclosed information from the students’ records. The alleged disclosures occurred significantly more than one year prior to the department’s receipt of the complaint. Consequently, the department will not investigate the alleged disclosures.

If a parent believes information in pupil records is inaccurate, misleading or violates the privacy or other rights of the child, the parent may request the school district to amend the information. If the district decides not to amend the information, it must inform the parent of the refusal, and advise the parent of the right to a hearing to review the district’s decision. If, as a result of the hearing, the district decides that the information is inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy or other rights of the child, it must amend the information accordingly and inform the parent in writing. If the district decides the information is not inaccurate, misleading, or otherwise in violation of the privacy or other rights of the child, it must inform the parent of the right to place in the records a statement commenting on the information or stating the reasons for disagreeing with the district’s decision. The parent’s statement must be maintained by the district as part of the child’s pupil records as long as the contested information is maintained by the district.

This right to request amending a record is not unlimited, however, and a school is not required to afford a parent the right to seek to change substantive decisions made by school officials, such as grades or other evaluations. Federal records law requires only that educational agencies and institutions conform to fair recordkeeping practices and not to override accepted standards and procedures for making academic assessments, disciplinary rulings, placement determinations, and other evaluations. Accordingly, the right to seek amendment of education records cannot be used to challenge a grade or evaluation unless it has been inaccurately recorded.

On October 17, 2007, the parent sent a written request to the district seeking amendment of portions of his children’s records. The district responded by letter dated January 11, 2008, to each portion of the request. The response indicates that several records referenced by the parent never existed. The response continues that in August 2007 the district added one of the records to one of the children’s files, as requested by the parent, and notified the parent of this action. Finally, the district responded that one type of document which the parent sought to amend was produced by law enforcement agencies which accurately reflect actions and conclusions reached by those agencies, as reported to the district. Consequently, the district declined to amend the record. Finally, the district’s response to the parent’s October 17 amendment request notifies the parent of his right to request a hearing related to his amendment request. The district is in the process of scheduling a hearing as requested by the parent. While the district was slow to respond, the delay was not unreasonable given all the circumstances of this dispute.

This concludes our review of this complaint, which we are closing.

//signed CST 1/24/08
Carolyn Stanford Taylor
Assistant State Superintendent
Division for Learning Support: Equity and Advocacy