Originally appeared in the CAS Weekly Newsletter.
Written by attorney Thomas B. Mooney.

Dear Legal Mailbag:

I very much enjoy the Legal Mailbag, and I have a simple question for you. I’m wondering what can and cannot be placed in students’ cumulative files. In particular, I’m wondering about DCF 136 Forms, school records of behavioral/academic interventions, etc.

Thank you,
A Fan 

Dear Fan:

We appreciate that you are a fan of Legal Mailbag, but you haven’t asked a simple question. The suspension and expulsion statutes expressly refer to the “cumulative educational record” in specifying when records of such disciplinary action must be included in (and may be expunged from) the “cumulative educational record.” However, neither these statutes nor any other statutes governing public education in Connecticut define the “cumulative education record” or list what records must be kept in the “cumulative educational record.” Moreover, there is no requirement that the “cumulative educational record” must be maintained in a single location, and health records are typically maintained separately. Accordingly, it appears that Connecticut school districts have some discretion as to what documents they consider to be the “cumulative educational record.”

That said, Legal Mailbag can provide you some guidance. First, I advise that DCF forms and related documents not be included in a student’s cumulative file. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-220(f) provides:

(f) Each local and regional board of education shall maintain in a central location all records of allegations, investigations and reports that a child has been abused or neglected by a school employee, as defined in section 53a-65, employed by the local or regional board of education, conducted pursuant to sections 17a-101a to 17a-101d, inclusive, and section 17a-103. Such records shall include any reports made to the Department of Children and Families. The Department of Education shall have access to such records. (Emphasis added).

Given this requirement, Legal Mailbag recommends that DCF 136 Forms and all related records should be maintained in that central location. If your district does not have such a central location, be a hero and let them know about this statutory obligation (which has been in force since 2011).

Second, Conn. Gen. Stat. §§ 10-233c requires that “notice of the [out-of-school] suspension and the conduct for which the pupil was suspended shall be included on the pupil’s cumulative educational record.” Similarly, 10-233d requires that “notice of the expulsion and the conduct for which the pupil was expelled shall be included on the pupil’s cumulative educational record.” In both cases, there is provision in the statute for expungement of such notice, upon high school graduation and otherwise as the statute specifies. However, this requirement makes clear that such notifications must be included in the “cumulative educational record,” however the district otherwise defines it.

Third, broad guidance as to what records may reasonably be considered the “cumulative educational record” is found in the section on “education records” in the Record Retention Schedule of the Public Records Administrator (found here: https://ctstatelibrary.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/M8.pdf). The retention schedule makes reference to “cumulative records” as follows.

First, the records referenced under the general “Cumulative records” section include:

• Academic achievement (grades/transcripts)
• Attendance records (days absent/present/tardy)
• Awards
• Basic biographical information
• Diagnostic test results (non-special ed)
• Extracurricular activities
• Letters of recommendation
• Parent’s/eligible student’s signed release forms, if required by school policy
• Records of immunization
• Standardized group test scores

In addition, the schedule lists the following “cumulative records” under Health Information:

• Accident reports
• Basic school entrance health histories
• Child abuse forms
• Cumulative health record
• Emergency care plans
• Health assessment records
• Incident reports
• Individualized health care plans
• Medication administration records
• Parent authorizations for medications/treatments
• Parent’s/eligible student’s signed release forms, if required by school policy
• Physician orders for medications/treatments
• Referral forms for services based on results mandated screenings
• Sports histories and physical-examination reports

Legal Mailbag presumes that the school nurse maintains these health records separately.

The need to maintain records of suspension and expulsion is separately listed and Legal Mailbag recommends that DCF records be maintained in a separate location, as described above. Legal Mailbag recommends that these lists only be used for guidance and hopes that this information is helpful to you and your school district. Legal Mailbag always appreciates questions from you and other fans. But it would be great if next time you would in fact ask a “simple question.”