It is Back to School time across the country. Thousands of students will be returning to the classroom in the next few weeks to begin the 2023-24 school year. In addition to preparing our students to return to school, filling out a million forms, buying that perfect backpack and stocking up on glue sticks, colored pencils and boxes of Kleenex, parents can prepare themselves for the new school year by becoming familiar with some key parental rights federal laws.
The Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment (PPRA), is a federal law that gives parents the right to inspect curriculum. Any school that receives federal funding must adhere to the PPRA. Under this law, parents can request to review the curriculum that will be used in their child’s classroom and the school must comply. Another important feature of the PPRA is the requirement for schools to allow parents to opt their child out of certain types of invasive surveys. (RELATED: SUZANNE DOWNING: One Of America’s Greatest Role Models Snubbed By Woke School District)
An opt-out must be available to parents when surveys venture into any of the following eight topics: 1) political affiliations or beliefs of the student or the student’s parent; 2) mental or psychological problems of the student or the student’s family; 3) sex behavior or attitudes; 4) illegal, anti-social, self-incriminating, or demeaning behavior; 5) critical appraisals of other individuals with whom respondents have close family relationships; 6) legally recognized privileged or analogous relationships, such as those of lawyers, physicians, and ministers; 7) religious practices, affiliations, or beliefs of the student or student’s parent; or 8) income (other than that required by law to determine eligibility for participation in a program or for receiving financial assistance under such a program). If these types of questions are asked in a school-provided survey, the parent must be given the opportunity to opt their child out.
Alongside the PPRA, any school that receives federal funding must adhere to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). According to the United States Department of Education, “FERPA gives parents certain rights with respect to their children’s education records. These rights transfer to the student when he or she reaches the age of 18 or attends a school beyond the high school level.”
The following rights are available to parents under FERPA: 1) the right to inspect student’s educational records, often referred to as the “Official Student Record”; 2) the right to request incorrect records be amended if they are inaccurate or misleading; 3) the right to request a formal hearing if the records are not amended; 4) the right to request a statement be placed in the student’s file if the school decided not to amend the record; and 5) the right to expect schools to maintain the privacy of school records. (RELATED: JOHN STOSSEL: College Is A Scam)
It must not be forgotten students and parents have the right to free speech under the First Amendment. The First Amendment protects students from compelled speech – this means the school cannot force your child to affirm certain ideology, nor can the school police speech off campus. Many districts have begun implementing Bias Reporting Systems, encouraging students and staff to report speech they deem to be offensive or inappropriate. These systems are sure to face First Amendment challenges.
The first day of school is always filled with anticipation and endless possibilities for the upcoming year. It is crucial for parents to familiarize themselves with their rights under the Protection of Pupil Rights Amendment, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, and the free speech protections under the First Amendment. By doing so, parents can ensure increased transparency, understanding and a positive educational experience for their children.
Marissa Fallon is Director of Advocacy at Parents Defending Education.
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