Informal Application by Students and Parents

There are many occasions at the school level where parents or guardians wish to see a student’s file or part of a file. In most circumstances a verbal request by a parent to review a file or obtain copies of documents on a student file will be sufficient to allow the parent access to the files.

Generally speaking there are three levels of disclosure that might be considered:

1. Requests that can be filled without further permission from a principal

    • copies of newsletters or other public documents; or
    • information available on a website.

2. Requests that might require consultation with the principal

    • report cards;
    • attendance records;
    • classroom work; and
    • copies of consultants’ reports.

These records can be released informally as long as:

    • school staff are sure the applicant has a parental role – i.e. there is joint custody or the school has a copy of an agreement or court order stating that the requesting person has custody or access; and
    • the release of the information will not be an unreasonable invasion of the privacy of the student (usually not an issue for this type of information but may be the case with older students).

Even in the case where a request is dealt with informally a note should be made on the file of the request. If copies of documents are requested the person applying can be asked to reimburse the school for the cost of the copies.

It is good practice to always advise parents of their right to make a formal request for access under LAFOIP even if the school is willing to provide access on an informal basis.

3. Requests that will usually require a formal application to be made

This would include any requests where there is any concern about the individual’s right to access the file. These types of situations may include:

    • the applicant is not on record at the school as a parent or guardian;
    • the application includes a request for an opinion about a student;
    • there is uncertainty about the right of the applicant to have the information;
    • there is uncertainty about the type of information being requested;
    • there is uncertainty about whether or not the release of the information might be an invasion of the privacy of the student;
    • a request for an affidavit;
    • a request for something to be used for a legal action or in court;
    • a request from a lawyer; and
    • any other request that seems odd or unusual.

In these types of situations it is recommended that the school require a written request for the information – it would be best to use the formal application process under LAFOIP.

It is advisable to have protocols in place that indicate when requests would need to be approved by someone other than the teacher or the principal. It is best practice for the board of education to have an LAFOIP coordinator to handle all formal requests. This will ensure that proper and consistent protocols are followed whenever such requests are made.