Ask AF: School Records

Adopted children with difficult pasts have a right to privacy in school. A legal expert answers questions about purging school records to ensure this.

Q: We adopted our son from foster care. The social workers filed forms explaining his troubled past to obtain special-education services for him. We are moving, and I want to purge my son’s school records of personal information and ensure him some privacy. The school’s lawyers, however, insist that everything in his file is a legal document and must be kept. Does my son have a right to privacy, or is he forced to drag his foster and birth family history with him for the rest of his academic life?


A: FERPA, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, is the federal law that governs student-record issues and confidentiality considerations for public schools. Under FERPA, you have the right to ask the school to amend your child’s record if you believe it violates his privacy or contains misleading information. If the school refuses, it must give the parent an opportunity for a fair hearing to challenge the refusal.

State law and county school system regulations also govern the amendment of school records. These policies are often accessible over the Internet. Parents should be aware of their rights when interacting with their child’s school. I’d advise you to start by meeting with the school’s principal and go from there.

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