Policy Brief

Kentucky Parents Win Records Access

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Parents have an “absolute right” to inspect all educational records relating to their children, including e-mails exchanged between teachers and administrators, the Kentucky attorney general’s office has concluded.

The issue arose when Jonathan Sholar, of Princeton, Ky., sought access to all records pertaining to his daughter, whether hard-copy or electronic. The Caldwell County school district refused the request.

“Mr. Sholar possesses an absolute right to inspect any and all educational records, including the requested communications, relating to his daughter,” Assistant Attorney General Amye L. Bensenhaver wrote in the April 12 opinion. “The district’s refusal to disclose these records to him constituted a violation of the Open Records Act.”

Superintendent Carrell Boyd of the Caldwell County schools said he will abide by the attorney general’s opinion and give Mr. Sholar access to the information he seeks.

Mr. Sholar asked for access to “all documents, e-mails, notes, correspondence, and memoranda” involving his daughter. It was a departure from the more common requests for transcripts and similar academic records.

School district lawyer Marc Wells argued that releasing e-mails and other correspondence “would constitute an unwarranted invasion of privacy.”

Ms. Bensenhaver concluded that the school district might be able to withhold the requested documents from the general public, but that Mr. Sholar, as a parent, can’t be denied access.

Communications about Mr. Sholar’s daughter “clearly constitute educational records,” according to the opinion.

Ms. Bensenhaver also noted in the opinion that state and federal laws prohibit the disclosure of the educational records Mr. Sholar sought to anyone else without his consent.

The U.S. Department of Education released regulations last year for the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act aimed at reassuring school officials who wish to share private student information because they believe it is necessary to prevent a health or safety emergency. ("Ed. Dept. Releases New Rules on Privacy," Jan. 7, 2009.)

Vol. 29, Issue 30, Page 16

Published in Print: April 28, 2010, as Ky. Parents Win Records Access
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