A School System in Maryland Wants To Charge Parents Over $18,000 To Obtain Copies of Correspondence

Note: The following is an excerpt from a Parents Defending Education article.

It is Back to School time, and parents can prepare themselves for the new school year by becoming familiar with some key parental rights federal laws.

Inspection of Curriculum

The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) is a federal law that gives parents the right to inspect curriculum. Any school that receives federal funding must adhere to the PPRA. Under this law, parents can request to review the curriculum that will be used in their child’s classroom, and the school must comply. Another important feature of the PPRA is the requirement for schools to allow parents to opt their children out of certain types of invasive surveys.

Opt-out – Surveys

An opt-out must be available to parents when surveys venture into any of the following eight topics: 1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; 2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family; 3) sex behavior or attitudes; 4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior; 5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; 6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; 7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or 8) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such a program). If these types of questions are asked in a school-provided survey, the parent must be given the opportunity to opt their child out.


Inspection of Student Records

Alongside the PPRA, any school that receives federal funding must adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). According to the United States Department of Education, “FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.”

The following rights are available to parents under FERPA: 1) the right to inspect student’s educational records, often referred to as the “Official Student Record”; 2) the right to request incorrect records be amended if they are inaccurate or misleading; 3) the right to request a formal hearing if the records are not amended; 4) the right to request a statement be placed in the student’s file if the school decided not to amend the record; and 5) the right to expect schools to maintain the privacy of school records.

Compelled Speech

It must not be forgotten students and parents have the right to free speech under the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects students from compelled speech – this means the school cannot force your child to affirm certain ideology, nor can the school police speech off campus. Many districts have begun implementing Bias Reporting Systems, encouraging students and staff to report speech they deem to be offensive or inappropriate. These systems are sure to face First Amendment challenges.