Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter Written by Attorney Thomas B. Mooney
Dear Legal Mailbag:
I am an elementary principal in an urban district and students in my school come and go with some frequency, which makes for a lot of work in getting and sending school records. When a new student enrolls in my school, I often have to chase after the sending schools to send me records. Usually, it is just a matter of the people at the other school also being busy, and eventually I get the records after some nagging.
Such was not the case recently. A new student enrolled last month after having previously attended school in a nearby district. I sent the usual letter, and I heard nothing. But when I followed up with a telephone call, I was quite surprised to learn that the school had decided not to send the records. I explained that I needed the records for educational decision-making, but the secretary at the sending school was snippy about it and curtly told me that she would not be sending out the records because the family owes the school money. I insisted on talking with the principal and, though he was nicer about it, his answer was the same. He claimed that he has adopted a new policy requiring that parents be “paid up” before his school will send records on to a new school. Moreover, he insisted that this procedure is kosher because “there is a law on it.”
Is there really such a law on school records?
Seeking Free Legal Advice
Actually, there are two laws that relate to the situation you describe. However, these laws do not support the policy described by the other principal. In fact, looking at these two laws together, it is clear that the other school should send you the records.
Presumably, the other principal is seeking to rely on the provisions of Conn. Gen. Stat. Section 10-221(c), which provides:
(c) Boards of education may prescribe rules to impose sanctions against pupils who damage or fail to return textbooks, library materials or other educational materials. Said boards may charge pupils for such damaged or lost textbooks, library materials or other educational materials and may withhold grades, transcripts or report cards until the pupil pays for or returns the textbook, library book or other educational material.
The problem with the actions of the other principal, however, is that the sanctions described in this statute do not relate to a receiving school, but rather relate to the student and his family, who may want a transcript for college, for example. I do not read the statute as permitting a school district to refuse to transfer records to another school, as is the case in your situation.
Another Connecticut state law applies here, and it clearly obligates the other school district to transfer the student’s educational records. It provides in relevant part:
Sec. 10-220h. Transfer of student records. When a student enrolls in a school in a new school district or in a new state charter school, the new school district or new state charter school shall provide written notification of such enrollment to the school district in which the student previously attended school or the state charter school the student previously attended not later than two business days after the student enrolls. The school district in which the student previously attended school or the state charter school that the student previously attended (1) shall transfer the student’s education records to the new school district or new state charter school no later than ten days after receipt of such notification, and (2) if the student’s parent or guardian did not give written authorization for the transfer of such records, shall send notification of the transfer to the parent or guardian at the same time that it transfers the records.
As you will note, the law specifically requires the sending district to transfer the student’s educational records within ten days of receiving notification. Moreover, the statute clarifies that the sending district does not need parent permission to send the records, but is simply obligated to notify the parent that it has sent the records.
Given the foregoing, I suggest that you send the other principal a copy of this answer to straighten him out. When you do, feel free to include a bill for my legal advice. In any event, I hope and expect that you will then promptly receive the records in question.
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