The beginning of the school year brings a flurry of excitement and activity back to your district, but it also means it is time to take a look at your annual notices again. Numerous federal laws require school districts to provide annual notice of rights and obligations to students, parents, and the public. It can seem like a daunting task to make sure that your notices are complete and up-to-date, but have no fear—Stock and Leader is here to provide a brief overview that will help you make sure your district is in compliance.
Make sure to review your current annual notices to parents/guardians, as several requirements have changed. All notices must be written in a language parents can understand, and can be provided via general mail, a publication on your website, or email. Several local districts have even created a dedicated Annual Notice page on their website where all notices are compiled and maintained.
Check out the hyperlinks we have included. They will direct you to Sample Annual Notices provided by the federal government and approved by Stock and Leader—just make sure to tailor them to your district’s specific needs!
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most recently reauthorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), requires districts to provide several annual notices to parents and the public. Chief among them is the requirement to provide notice to parents of Limited English Proficient children of how they can be involved in their children’s education and be active participants in helping their children attain English proficiency. This notice needs to be provided to the parents of students identified as English language learners (ELL) within the first 30 days of school (or no less than 2 weeks after a child is placed in a language instruction program). Districts must also annually provide parental notice, at the beginning of the school year, that a parent may request certain information on the professional qualifications of their student’s classroom teachers and paraprofessionals providing services to their child. In addition, districts are required to make available through public means (including the school’s website) information on mandatory assessments, including their subject matter, purpose, and a notice of parental rights to opt out of such assessments when applicable.
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) requires districts to annually notify parents of:
- Their right to, and the procedure for, inspecting, reviewing, and amending education records
- The district’s definition of a “school official;”
- What constitutes a “legitimate educational interest;”
- How the district defines “directory information;”
- How a student may opt out of allowing the district to disclose their directory information;
- Their right to file a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education; and
- Regular release of student information to military recruiters.
The district must notify parents who have a primary or home language other than English and the parents of students who are disabled in a manner reasonably calculated to convey the required information. Check out Stock and Leader’s sample FERPA notice here.
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA) requires annual notification to parents of district policies regarding the:
- Use of students’ personally identifiable information;
- Administration of any survey regarding specific, statutorily defined, topics; and
- Administration of certain non-emergency, invasive physical examinations.
See the two Sample Notices published by the Federal Government here and here. (NOTE: both notices are required to fully comply with PPRA’s notification requirements). The Family Policy and Compliance Office, a regulatory body that administers FERPA and PPRA, also published a brief, easy to understand FAQ on your notification requirements under the PPRA.
If your district participates in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program, then the Child Nutrition Programs require that you provide parents and the public with information about free and reduced price meals and milk at the beginning of each school year. In addition, districts must notify parents and guardians of the process to request meal modifications to accommodate a child’s disabilities and the process for resolving disputes. Don’t forget to check out these Sample Notices about applying for free and reduced price meals and milk.
Under the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act, districts must inform and update the public about school wellness policies annually. See the USDA’s Sample Wellness Policy here for ideas on how to get started!
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, as amended by ESSA, dictates that districts provide public notice of the education rights of the homeless students enrolled in their districts. These notices should be disseminated in places where homeless students receive services under this act (shelters, food banks, etc.). You can download Sample Posters here that explain these rights. Please note: children in foster care are no longer automatically qualified as homeless. However, legal analysis may show that foster children still qualify as homeless under the Act, as amended by ESSA.
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act states that districts must annually notify parents, teachers, and employee organizations of:
- The availability of the management plan;
- Planned/in-progress inspections or re-inspections; and
- Response actions and post-response actions, including periodic re-inspection and surveillance activities.
The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act requires districts to provide a copy of their procedural safeguards to parents of children with a disability. Stock and Leader recommends that districts also post the procedural safeguards on their website. The USDE’s Model Form: Procedural Safeguards Notice is particularly helpful in fulfilling this requirement.
Finally, districts need to notify eligible students, parents, and guardians that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, disability, and age, and that they provide equal access to the use of school property to the Boy and Girl Scouts and other designated youth groups. This Sample Notice provides compliance to all of these anti-discrimination notification requirements. NOTE: Your notice must include the name and contact information of the coordinators designated to handle complaints under Title IX, Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.
These federal laws have many nuances—if you have any questions about this newsflash and your district’s annual notice compliance, the School Law Group at Stock and Leader is happy to help. Enjoy the 2017-2018 school year!