Records and access to students (March 2017 School Leader Update)
- No subpoena. If local law enforcement make a request – either written or oral – for names and addresses of students, there may or may not be an obligation to comply. Does your school list names and home addresses as “directory information?” If yes, this is public information that must be given to law enforcement under Iowa law (Iowa Code section 22.7) and under the Federal Educational Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA). If names and home addresses have not been designated by the school as directory information, there is no obligation to comply. Two additional cautions:
a. If a parent has exercised the “opt out” option for directory information, DO NOT release the name and address of that parent’s child.
b. Student directory information, especially for elementary schools, may be defined to include no information. (High schools probably need to include names as directory information in order to publish honor rolls, sport rosters, etc. No such need may exist for younger students.)
- Subpoena from state agency. If a state agency presents a lawful subpoena for student records, the district must comply. Unless a court has ordered otherwise, the district must make reasonable attempts to give families notice of the subpoena and of the nature of the requested records.
- Subpoena from federal agency. If a federal agency subpoenas school records, have the district’s attorney review the subpoena as soon as possible to determine what next steps must be taken and if there are any notice requirements to parents or guardians.
With any request for records, contact the district’s attorney. But this is especially crucial when the district receives a subpoena for records.
Access to Students
We strongly encourage school officials to cooperate with law enforcement within the bounds of the law and local school policy. If federal immigration officials or local law enforcement appear at a school seeking access to students (for interviews and/or questioning), a school district should advise all staff to immediately contact the superintendent and the school district’s attorney for guidance, particularly with respect to its duties under education law, Plyler, and state laws before allowing access to a student.