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Education Laws and Regulations

Access to Student Records by Non-Custodial Parents – Final Regulation

To:Superintendents of Schools, Charter School Leaders and School Principals
From:David P. Driscoll, Commissioner of Education
Date:September 14, 2006

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In August 2006, the Board of Education adopted final technical amendments to the Student Records Regulations to make them consistent with G.L. c. 71, §34H, as most recently amended by Chapter 62 of the Acts of 2006. The state statute and regulations expand the categories of non-custodial parents who are eligible to obtain access to their children's student records and are consistent with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

As set forth in the amended regulation, 603 CMR 23.07(5), non-custodial parents are eligible to obtain access to their children's student records unless the school or district has been given documentation that:

  1. the parent has been denied legal custody or has been ordered to supervised visitation, based on a threat to the safety of the student and the threat is specifically noted in the order pertaining to custody or supervised visitation, or
  2. the parent has been denied visitation, or
  3. the parent's access to the student has been restricted by a temporary or permanent protective order, unless the protective order (or any subsequent order modifying the protective order) specifically allows access to the information contained in the student record, or
  4. there is an order of a probate and family court judge which prohibits the distribution of student records to the parent.

Reason for the Amendments

In 1998, the Massachusetts Legislature enacted G.L. c. 71, §34H in order to standardize the process through which schools make student records available to non-custodial parents. The statute provided that a non-custodial parent would have access to his or her child's student record unless a court has determined that the parent poses a safety risk. The Board of Education subsequently adopted regulations (603 CMR 23.07(5)) to implement the state law.

In May 2005, the U.S. Department of Education informed the Massachusetts Department of Education of its determination that our state statute and regulations on access to student records by non-custodial parents must be amended in order to conform to federal law (the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, or FERPA, 20 U.S.C. §1232g). In particular, the U.S. Department of Education found that requiring non-custodial parents to provide documentation that there are no court orders rendering them ineligible before granting them access to student records violates their right to inspect and review their children's educational records.

In October 2005, the Board of Education amended the Student Records Regulations to make them consistent with federal law. The Legislature amended the state statute on non-custodial parents' access to student records for the same reason. The legislation was enacted on April 13, 2006 (see http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/seslaw06/sl060062.htm). The Board's vote on technical amendments to the regulations in August 2006 was the final action to align the state regulations with the amended state statute and the federal law.

The state Student Records Regulations (603 CMR 23.00), as amended, are available on the Department of Education's web site at http://www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/603cmr23.html.

Last Updated: September 18, 2006

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