Student v. Northborough Public Schools – BSEA #02-1147

<br /> Student v. Northborough Public Schools – BSEA #02-1147<br />

COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

BUREAU OF SPECIAL EDUCATION APPEALS

In Re: Student v. Northborough Public Schools

BSEA # 02-1147

RULING ON NORTHBOROUGH PUBLIC SCHOOLS’ MOTION TO DISMISS

This ruling is issued pursuant to 20 USC 1400 et seq. (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act), 29 USC 794 (Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act), MGL chs. 30A (State Administrative Procedure Act) and 71B (state Special education law), and the regulations promulgated under said statutes.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY/FACTS

The Parents filed their Request for Hearing on January 10, 2002. The hearing request stated that the School district had failed to provide the Parents with a complete copy of Student’s student record. The Parents requested that the BSEA compel the School to comply with the Parents’ request. (See Hearing Request) The Hearing Officer conducted a conference call with the Father and the School’s attorney on February 11, 2002. The School filed a Motion to Dismiss on February 21, 2002. Parents filed a Motion to Allow Hearing on February 21, 2002. Parents filed their response to Northborough’s Motion to Dismiss on February 27, 2002. Northborough filed exhibits in support of its Motion on April 8, 2002. There was a Hearing upon the Motions on April 10, 2002, at the Bureau of Special Education Appeals.

The Student is a child with disabilities who receives special education and related services from the Northborough Public Schools. (See Northborough’s Motion to Dismiss) On or about January 2, 2002, the Parents requested a complete copy of the Student’s educational records from Northborough. (See attachment to Parents’ Hearing Request.) On or about January 4, 2002, Northborough provided the Parents with a copy of the Student’s record and special education records, which the School maintains was complete. (See Northborough Public School’s Motion to Dismiss.) On January 7, 2002, the Parents sent a letter to the superintendent of the Northborough Public Schools alleging that the information provided to them was only a partial student file. (See attachment to Parents’ Hearing Request, S-3). On or about January 23, 2002, the Superintendent sent a letter to the Father stating that as he had previously told him that all of the files pertaining to his son had been provided, and listing the documents provided. (See S-1.) On February 6, 2002, the Superintendent sent a letter to the Parents informing them of their right to a hearing before the School Committee pursuant to 603 CMR 23.09 if they were dissatisfied with the information provided by Northborough. (See S-2.) The Parents did not request a hearing before the school committee. (See Northborough’s Motion to Dismiss.)

Issue

Whether the Parents’ Hearing Request should be dismissed.

Parents’ Position

The Parents claim that Northborough did not provide them with their son’s entire student record in response to their request for the same. They stated during oral argument that the reason they were seeking their son’s record was to determine whether the school had provided the Student with a free appropriate public education (FAPE) so they could file a future request for a hearing. They claim that they may opt to seek redress of their dispute regarding records at the BSEA because the reason they are seeking the records relates to the provision of FAPE to their son.

School’s Position

Northborough does not dispute the Parents’ right to inspect and receive copies of their son’s student records. However, it argues that it has already produced all of the student’s records and states that the BSEA does not have jurisdiction to hear this dispute as it is essentially a dispute over student records and not a dispute about the provision of FAPE.

Analysis

The jurisdiction of the BSEA is described as follows:

In order to provide for the resolution of differences of opinion among local school districts, private schools, parents, and state agencies, the Bureau of Special Education Appeals, located with the Department, shall conduct mediations and hearings to resolve such disputes.

603 C.M.R. 28.08(3).

Under federal law, parents and school districts are granted the right to initiate a due process hearing for matters relating to the identification, evaluation or educational placement of a child with a disability or the provision of FAPE to the child. See 35 C.F.R. 300.507(a); 603 C.M.R. 28.08(3).

The BSEA Hearing Rules for Special Education Appeals describe Parents’ rights with respect to inspection of records as follows:

Pursuant to the Massachusetts Student Records regulations [603 C.M.R. 23.00],[Parents have the right to] inspect and to receive a copy of all student records pertaining to the child, including, but not limited to, the written record and clinical history of the evaluation, and any other school records and papers related to the identification, evaluation, placement or provision of a free and appropriate public education to the child.

See Rule 10B(3). Nothing in the Massachusetts Student Records regulations provides jurisdiction to the BSEA to hear a dispute pertaining to a student records dispute. The regulations provide a mechanism under which Parents can seek to amend the Student record (23.08) which arguably is what the Parents seek to do. The Parents seek to have additional documents, namely notes taken by service providers, included in the student record. Section 23.09 provides for an appeal to the superintendent and then to the school committee to resolve disputes pertaining to the content of the student record. (See 603 C.M.R. 23.09.) It also provides that the Parents can seek judicial review or administrative review in an appropriate forum if there remains a dispute. Id.

The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provides no private right of action for alleged violations of the federal law pertaining to student records. See Frazier v. Fairhaven School Committee , 276 F.3d 52 (1 st Cir. 2002). Only the United States Secretary of Education is authorized to enforce alleged violations of FERPA. See 20 U.S.C. § 1232g(f).

The Parents’ argument that their dispute involves FAPE is unpersuasive in this instance. The Parents have been clear that they are seeking to obtain their son’s records in order to review them to determine whether he has received FAPE. They intend to use that information to potentially file a future due process hearing request at the BSEA. The appropriate mechanism for obtaining information to be used during a proceeding at the BSEA is the discovery process described in BSEA Hearing Rule 5. It is inappropriate to file a Hearing Request for the sole purpose of conducting discovery.

For the preceding reasons, I find that there is no genuine dispute concerning the identification, evaluation, or provision of FAPE with respect to the Student. Therefore, the Parents’ Hearing Request is hereby DISMISSED.

Order

For the aforementioned reasons, the School’s Motion to Dismiss is hereby GRANTED.

By the Hearing Officer,

Catherine M. Putney-Yaceshyn

Dated: September 20, 2002