Sua Sponte: U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services and Education issue letter to chief state school officers and child welfare directors re: The Uninterrupted Scholars Act amendments to FERPA

The U.S Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and Department of Education (ED) have issued a letter to Chief State School Officers and Child Welfare Directors regarding The Uninterrupted Scholars Act (USA) (Public Law 112-278), enacted on January 14, 2013.  The USA amends the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  The DHHS/ED letter states that the amendment permits educational agencies and institutions to disclose education records, without parental consent, to a caseworker or other representative of a state or local child welfare agency or tribal organization authorized to access a student’s case plan when the organization is legally responsible for the care and protection of the student.

The USA amendments also delete the FERPA requirement that school districts notify parents before complying with a lawfully issued subpoena or judicial order for education records, in cases concerning child abuse and neglect (as defined by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act) where the parent is a party.

Text of the USA.

[Editor's Note: Many states have adopted state versions of FERPA, either by statute or agency regulation.  These laws should be reviewed before advising school districts that they can stop notifying parents of subpoenas in child abuse cases involving a parent.   Since these laws concern rights of notice, the state laws, being more generous, may continue to be enforceable by parents.   To avoid confusion and possible litigation, you may want to have your client districts pursue companion changes at the state level.]

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