Thursday, February 1, 2018

How to Get Your Child's School Records for Free Fast

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Photo of a wooden file cabinet with an open drawer and visible file folders
Get your child's school records for free. Photo by Pptudela at the English language Wikipedia under CC BY-SA  3.0 

Whether planning for an IEP, applying for services or preparing for a transition, there are many reasons why parents of students with autism and other disabilities may need copies of their children’s school records. Fortunately, the federal Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), as well as state laws such as the Illinois School Students Records Act, give parents the right to inspect, review and request corrections to their children’s school records.
Although FERPA does not require educational agencies or institutions to provide copies of student records to parents or students, most schools will make copies available for a fee. While state laws and district policies generally require that the fee be reasonable, some parents may not be able to afford to pay the fee.

Requesting a fee waiver on the grounds that “the imposition of a fee effectively prevents a parent or eligible student from exercising the right to inspect and review the student’s education records” may be successful but it also may cause delays that prevent you from accessing the records when you need them.
Fortunately, there is a way around the run around. Follow these steps to get copies of the records you need for almost nothing.
1. Make a written request to review the records.

2. Show up for your appointment prepared. Take a notebook and pen with you and make plans to spend as much time as you need perusing the records as it can take quite a bit of time, especially if your child has received services under an IEP or 504 Plan. 

3. Use a portable wand scanner to instantly make PDF copies of the records you need. Portable scanners are inexpensive and lightweight, and they make it easy to quickly make copies of all of the records you need without the hassle of transporting a huge volume of papers. As an alternative, you can snap photos of the records with your smart phone and send them to your email account, but I find the PDFs much easier to manage.
FERPA and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) overlap to provide additional privacy protections for students who receive special education and related services. Familiarize yourself with your rights under these laws so you can advocate for your child as effectively as possible.

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