Keenesburg, Colorado, school district mom Connie Sack wanted to see school records for her son, Logan, 16.
So she submitted a request under the Family Rights Education and Privacy Act, one of those federal acronyms that are so prevalent in schools.
A little later, she got the records.
And a bill for $567. That included $438 for research and retrieval and $129 for copying.
A good argument for homeschooling, where mom or dad keep their own records, right?
“Four hundred dollars is basically the budget we have for his school clothes and supplies every year,” Sack told the FOIC. “To pay that just to view his education records seems ridiculous.”
But there may be hope for the family yet.
The law that protects the privacy of student records and allows inspection says schools “may not charge for search and retrieval of information from education records,” Dorie Turner Nolt, of the U.S. Department of Education, told the coalition.
The charges from the Weld County School District Re-3J, which include one hour of free research but billing for 14.6 hours at $30 an hour, plus 25 cents per page, are in line with the Colorado Open Records Act.
But the request was made under the federal statute, not the state provision, so the charges apparently are being questioned.
“They definitely don’t get to do that. … I would absolutely push back on that one,” said Frank LoMonte, of the Student Press Law Center.
A school district spokeswoman, however, told FOIC there was a difference between records such as report cards and other documents such as emails that concern the students.
“She said a parent is welcome anytime to view his or her child’s cumulative file at a school, but records such as emails must be reviewed and redacted to protect the privacy of other students who are named,” FOIC reported.
LoMonte’s opinion was different.
“Neither the FERPA statute nor regulation contemplates any fee for search, retrieval or redaction, and charging for those ‘services’ goes against the intent of FERPA to make those records freely available,” he told the coalition in an email.
Sack explained there were several reasons for the records request, including a possible challenge to the district rejection of Logan’s application for National Honor Society.