As always, Stock and Leader is here to provide a brief overview to help you make sure your school district is in compliance with the federal laws which require districts to provide students, parents, and the public with notices. Many of these notices need to be provided at the beginning of the school year. Fortunately, federal agencies often create “model” notices that can be easily tailored for your school district.
Make sure you review your Annual Notices as some requirements have changed. All notices must be written in a language parents can understand, and can be provided via general mail, email, or a publication on your website. We recommend that your school district maintain an Annual Notices page on your website for easy maintenance and year-round access.
Every Student Succeeds Act
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, most recently reauthorized under the Every Student Succeeds Act of 2015 (“ESSA”), requires state education agencies, school districts, and individual schools to provide numerous notices to parents and the public. Under ESSA, school districts must publish state and local report cards on their website. A link to Pennsylvania’s report cards will suffice to comply with this requirement. ESSA requires that all school districts which receive Title I funds have a written family and parent engagement policy. It requires districts to involve family members and parents in developing district plans. Additionally, it requires districts to provide technical assistance to schools as they plan and implement effective family and parent involvement activities to improve student academic achievement and school performance. Finally, it also requires districts to implement an effective means of outreach to parents of English Language Learners, including holding regular meetings for those parents.
Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act
The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“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. This statement should define a school official and what constitutes a legitimate educational interest providing the basis for accessing a student’s educational records.
Additionally, school districts must make a public notice that directory information may be disclosed by the district, what information has been designated as directory information, and how parents and guardians may opt out of allowing the district to disclose their directory information.
Finally, under FERPA, school districts must provide notice of their practice of routinely releasing the names, addresses, and phone numbers of secondary students to military recruiters and higher education institutions unless parents opt out in writing. School districts may provide this notice as part of their general FERPA notice.
The U.S. Department of Education recommends that districts post all FERPA notices on their websites.
Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (“PPRA”) requires school districts to adopt several policies regarding surveys of students, instructional materials, physical examinations, 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 your district plans to do any of the following, notification to parents is required 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 at approximately the beginning of each school year. School districts must also provide parents with an application form, the link to which can be posted to the district’s website.
School districts may not disclose a child’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. Additionally, the amended Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2016 requires school districts to inform and update the public about the content and implementation of their local school wellness policies. School districts are also required to periodically measure and report on the implementation of their wellness policies, including:
- The extent to which schools under the jurisdiction of the local school district are in compliance with its local school’s wellness policy;
- The extent wo which the local school wellness policy of the local district compares to model local school wellness policies; and
- The progress made in attaining the goals of the local school wellness policy.
Lastly, school districts must implement procedures to enable parents and guardians to request modifications to meals for students with disabilities and to resolve disputes regarding this matter. Notification of those procedures must be readily posted for parents.
Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act
The Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act requires school districts to inspect their buildings for asbestos-containing building material, and to develop, maintain, and update an asbestos management plan. School districts 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
The McKinny-Vento Homeless Assistance Act requires school districts, through their homeless student liaisons, to provide public notice of the education rights of homeless students enrolled in their district. Notices are to be disseminated in places where homeless students receive services under this Act, including schools, family shelters, and soup kitchens. The notice must be in a manner and form which is understood by homeless students and their parents/ guardians, including in their native language to a feasible extent.
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, gender, 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. The 2020 Title IX regulations require school districts to notify not only students and parents/guardians of the name, title, office address, email address, and phone number of the district’s Title IX coordinator, but also notify all applicants for admission and employment and all unions. Districts are required to prominently post the contact information for their Title IX coordinator on their website.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act
Lastly, the Individuals with Disabilities Act 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. Notices must be made in a manner that is understood by the parent, and in their native language to the extent feasible.
As these federal laws contain many nuances, if you have any questions about your district’s Annual Notice compliance, the School Law Group at Stock and Leader is happy to help! Enjoy the new school year!