The purpose of this technical advisory is to provide updated guidance regarding the charter school statute and the release of student names and addresses for the purpose of recruiting students. Since 2010, the charter school statute has required school districts and Commonwealth charter schools upon request to provide the names and addresses of students to a third party mail house for mailings. This requirement is consistent with federal and state law regarding student records.
The Massachusetts charter school statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89(g), states as follows.
To ensure that a commonwealth charter school shall fulfill its obligations under its recruitment and retention plan, the school district or districts from which the commonwealth charter school is expected to enroll students shall annually provide, at the request of a commonwealth charter school, to a third party mail house authorized by the department, the addresses for all students in the district eligible to enroll in the school, unless a student's parent or guardian requests that the district withhold that student's information; provided, however, that the department may require the charter school to send the mailing in the most prevalent languages of the district or districts that the charter school is authorized to serve.
At the request of a school district from which a commonwealth charter school enrolls students, the charter school shall provide to a third party mail house the addresses for all students currently enrolled in the commonwealth charter school from the district; provided, however, that the information shall not be provided if a student's parent or guardian requests that the school withhold that student's information. Each district shall be permitted to supply a mailing to the third party mail house and pay for it to be copied and mailed to families of students from said district enrolled in the commonwealth charter school.
Section 1.05(6)(e) of the Charter School Regulations states as follows.
A charter school may initiate a request once a year for a mailing to the students enrolled in each district specified in the school's charter, and a district may initiate a request once a year for a mailing to the students enrolled in any charter school serving that district. When such a request is made, the district or school, as the case may be, shall provide the names and addresses of students within 30 days, in electronic format, to an approved third party mailing service. Any vendor listed on the statewide procurement or master services agreement for mailing services shall be deemed approved for the purposes of 603 CMR 1.05(6)(e). The district or school must provide parents or guardians with the opportunity to request that such information be withheld. The cost of copying and mailing shall be borne by the charter school or district requesting the mailing. Neither school districts nor charter schools shall charge for the provision of the required names and addresses. Charter schools shall provide any such mailing in the prevalent languages of the district. A language shall be deemed a prevalent language if it is the primary language of 1% or more of the district's total enrollment.
The release of student record information without written parental consent is generally prohibited by the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which applies to all schools that receive federal funds, and the Massachusetts Student Records Regulations (Mass SRR), 603 CMR 23.00. Both FERPA and the Mass SRR, however, allow schools to release the names and addresses of students, as well as other "directory" information, without prior parental consent, provided they give notice that it is their policy to release such information and that they notify parents and eligible students of their right to request that this information not be released without their prior written consent.
In order to comply with the mail house provision of the charter school statute, G.L. c. 71, § 89(g), all schools must include in their student handbook, or the routine information letter the school publishes under section 23.10(1) of the Mass SRR, notice that the school will release the names and addresses of students to a third party mail house, upon request, unless the parent or eligible student objects to such release. Charter schools should indicate that the release will occur upon the request of a school district. School districts should indicate that the release will occur upon the request of a Commonwealth charter school.
For purposes of a mailing to prospective students, once each year, a Commonwealth charter school may request from the school district(s) it is chartered to serve, the names and addresses of district students eligible to enroll in the charter school. Likewise, for purposes of a mailing, a school district may request from Commonwealth charter schools, the names and addresses of charter school students who are enrolled in the charter school and reside in the district. Upon receiving such a request, the Commonwealth charter school or the school district must send within 30 days, in an electronic form, the names and addresses of such students to an approved third party mail house. The cost of copying and mailing shall be borne by the charter school or district requesting the mailing. Neither school districts nor charter schools shall charge for the provision of the required names and addresses.
The charter school regulations, in 603 CMR 1.05(6)(e), specify that "any vendor listed on the statewide procurement or master services agreement for mailing services shall be deemed approved for the purposes of this section." Information on approved vendors can be found as follows:
In contracting with a third party mail house for purposes of mailing to students, charter schools and school districts should take care to include contract provisions sufficient to protect the security of such student information. It is wise to include a provision that limits the use of such information to the purposes specified in the charter school statute and regulations.
I urge charter schools and districts to respond promptly when requests are made and to ensure that parents and eligible students are given the opportunity to opt-out of the release. Please feel free to contact the Office of Charter Schools and School Redesign at 781-338-3227, should you require additional information.
Last Updated: January 30, 2019
Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education
75 Pleasant Street, Malden, MA 02148-4906
Voice: (781) 338-3000
TTY: (800) 439-2370
Disclaimer: A reference in this website to any specific commercial products, processes, or services, or the use of any trade, firm, or corporation name is for the information and convenience of the public and does not constitute endorsement or recommendation by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.