Nevada Tells Father: Over $10K to Access Kids’ School Records
Written by Raven Clabough
A conscientious father in Nevada received shocking news when he requested to see the permanent records of his four children from state education officials: His request would cost $10,194.
John Eppolito, the father, was concerned about a recent decision in Nevada to join a multi-state consortium that would share student data.
Fox News explains, “Nevada has spent an estimated $10 million in its seven-year-old System of Accountability Information in Nevada, known as SAIN. Data from county school systems is uploaded nightly to a state database, and, under the new arrangement, potentially shared with other counties and states.”
Eppolito was interested in accessing his children’s records in order to learn what information had been compiled on his children. It was then that he learned that he would have to pay significant fees as well as special programming costs to run a report of that kind.
The total, Eppolito was told, would come to $10,194.
“The problem is that I can’t stop them from collecting the data,” said Eppolito. “I just wanted to know what it was. It almost seems impossible. Certainly $10,000 is enough reason to prevent a parent from getting the data.”
Department of Public Information officer Judy Osgood attempted to explain the reason for such a high price: “Please understand that the primary purpose of the Department of Education’s database it to support required state and federal reporting, funding of local education agencies, education accountability, and public reporting,” Osgood states. “The system currently is not capable of responding to the type of individual student data request you have presented.”
Eppolito was not satisfied with the response. “This data is for everyone except the parents. It’s wrong,” he asserts.
The federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) allows parents to view their children’s records and permits small fees to be issued in order to access those records. Ironically, under the act, the fees are not supposed to be so substantial that they ultimately prevent parents from obtaining them.
“Unless the imposition of a fee effectively prevents a parent or eligible student from exercising the right to inspect and review the student’s education records, an educational agency or institution may charge a fee for a copy of an education record which is made for the parent or eligible student,” reads a section of the act. “An educational agency or institution may not charge a fee to search for or to retrieve the education records of a student.”
According to the regulations, the above criteria apply to “any state educational agency and its components.”
The state, by requiring the fee of over $10,000, appears to be acting in violation of FERPA.
“They are supposed to provide [parents] the opportunity to inspect and review [records] upon request,” explained one official at the Family Policy Compliance Office (FCPO), the federal agency over FERPA. “There shouldn’t be a fee for inspecting and reviewing the records.”
But Osgood does not view it that way. “NDE does provide free access to education records,” she said. “SAIN was not designed for student-level inspection. Our understanding of FERPA is that this level of inspection applies to the LEA [local education authority—i.e., school district] and school.”