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Tis’ the Season for Annual Notices

As always, Stock and Leader is here to provide a brief overview that will help you make sure your school district is in compliance. Several federal laws require school districts to provide students, parents, and the public with notices, many of which must be provided at the beginning of the school year. Fortunately, federal agencies oftentimes create “model” notices that can be easily tailored for your school district.

Make sure you take a look at your Annual Notices since some 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. In addition, several school districts have created a dedicated Annual Notice page on their website where all notices are compiled and maintained.

Elementary and Secondary Education Act (“ESEA”)
ESEA, most recently reauthorized under Every Student Succeeds (ESSA), requires school districts to provide several notices to parents, the public, and others. There is a new provision added by ESSA requiring that all school districts receiving Title I funds implement an effective means of outreach to parents of English Learners, including holding regular meetings for those parents.

Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”)
FERPA requires school districts to provide parents or guardians and eligible students with Annual Notices of their rights to:

  • Inspect and review education records;
  • Amend education records;
  • Consent to disclose personally identifiable information in education records; and
  • File a complaint with the U.S. Department of Education.

The notice must include the procedure to request and review education records, as well as a statement that records may be disclosed to school officials without prior written consent. The U.S. Department of Education recommends that districts post all FERPA notices on their websites.

Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (“PPRA”)
PPRA requires school districts to adopt several policies regarding surveys of students, instructional materials, physical examination, and personal information used for marketing. Parents must be notified of these policies at least annually at the beginning of the school year and within a reasonable time after any substantial change to the policies. In addition, if you plan to do any of the following, you must notify parents at least annually at the beginning of the school year of the specific or approximate dates when these activities are scheduled or expected to be scheduled:

  • Use students’ personal information for selling or marketing purposes;
  • Administer any survey about any of the eight topics listed in the statute (political beliefs, income, sex behavior or attitudes, etc.); or
  • Administer certain non-emergency, invasive physical examinations.

Child Nutrition Programs
If your school district participates in the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, or the Special Milk Program, you must provide both parents and the public with information about free and reduced-price meals and/or free milk near the beginning of each school year.

School Districts must also provide parents with an application form and may not disclose children’s free and reduced eligibility status, unless the requestor of such information falls into one of the categories specified in the National School Lunch Act. In addition, the amended Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act requires school districts to inform and update the public about the content and implementation of their local school wellness policies. You must also periodically measure and report on implementation of their local school’s wellness policies.

Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (“AHERA”)
AHERA requires school districts to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building material, and to develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan. You must annually notify parents, teachers, and employee organizations in writing of the availability of the management plan and planned or in-progress inspections, re-inspections, response activities, and post-response actions, including periodic re-inspection and surveillance activities.

McKinny-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
This Act requires school districts, through their homeless student liaisons, to provide public notice of the education rights of the homeless students enrolled in their districts. Notices are to be disseminated in places where homeless students receive services under this Act, including schools, family shelters, and soup kitchens.

Title VI, Title IX, Section 504, the Age Discrimination Act, Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Boy Scouts of America Equal Access Act
Several federal statutes protect the rights of beneficiaries not to be discriminated against in programs or activities receiving federal and/or state financial assistance.

The regulations implementing the above named statutes require school districts to notify students, parents, and others that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, sex, pregnancy, disability, or age, and that they provide equal access to the Boy and Girl Scouts and other designated youth groups.

The notice must include the identity and contact information of the coordinators designated to handle complaints under Title IX, Section 504, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination Act.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”)
Lastly, the IDEA requires school districts to give parents of a child with a disability a copy of the district’s procedural safeguards one time per year, and upon (i) the initial referral or parental request for an evaluation; (ii) the filing of a first request for a due process hearing, a disciplinary action constituting a change in placement; and (iii) at the request of a parent.

As 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 2018-2019 school year!

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