The following question was submitted to John Roska, an attorney/writer whose weekly newspaper column, "The Law Q&A," ran in the Champaign News Gazette.
I’m a high school student. Can I see my school record, without my parents’ consent?
Schools must let all students, regardless of age, see their permanent record upon request. Parental consent isn’t required.
Your permanent record contains all the records a school is required to keep. Anything else a school keeps is your temporary record. Schools can let you see your temporary record, but don’t have to.
Parents can see everything. Some schools let students see everything, too.
Once you’re 18 or graduate, you’re entitled to see both your permanent and temporary record, and your parents aren’t entitled to see anything.
Federal and state law guarantees both access to student records, and privacy. The federal law is the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act. FERPA says that public schools can’t get federal money unless school records are open to parents, and closed to most others.
FERPA became law in 1974. Shortly thereafter, Illinois enacted the School Student Records Act. That state law, and the Board of Education regulations that go along with it, define the basic rights students and parents have to look at student records. Open access to parents and students is the basic idea.
The state law broadly defines a school record as anything written or recorded “by which a student may be individually identified.” If it’s written or recorded, and contains anything that makes it possible to recognize you, it’s a record you or your parents can see. It doesn’t matter who created it, or how, or why.
About the only exception is surveillance videos.
Permanent records must be kept for at least 60 years. Temporary records must be kept for at least 5 years after you leave school or graduate.
The regulations say permanent records must contain: your name and address, your parents’ names and addresses, transcripts, class rank, college entrance scores, attendance record, accident reports and health records, scores on state assessment tests for grades 9 through 12, and a list of anybody the records were released to.
Your temporary record is anything beyond your permanent record. The only things it must contain are assessment test scores for grades K through 8, and any school discipline involving “drugs, weapons, or bodily harm to another.”
Schools have to let students see everything in their permanent record. They don’t have to let students see their temporary record, but can.
Schools have to let parents see both the permanent and temporary record. But once a student turns 18, only the student can see their records.
Once a student or parent asks, schools have 5 business days to provide access. They can charge 35 cents a page for copying, but can’t deny a request for copies due to a parent or student’s “inability to bear the cost of such copying.”
Access helps assure accuracy. So if you find errors in your record, you can file a challenge, and pursue it through your school’s procedures. You can’t challenge grades, however. You can also file your own statement or explanation, which must then be included in your school record.
Finally, the federal law requires that schools notify parents annually of their right to view student records.