Dear Parents/Guardians:Providing and maintaining a safe learning environment is of utmost importance to the educators and administrators at Three Rivers Community Schools. In recent weeks, districts around the state and country have been highlighted in the media for a number of perceived safety risks.
On behalf of Three Rivers Community Schools, I want to assure you that we are constantly monitoring our procedures and protocols – and if something is not working appropriately, we fix it. It is my intention to ensure that every TRCS student comes to school each day with the knowledge that his or her safety is important to all of us.
At times, when situations arise, it can be difficult to provide information to parents and the community. The district is held to a high standard in regard to following state and federal laws. Three of these laws/mandates fall under the Family Educational Rights Privacy Act (FERPA); Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE); and Due Process. I have included information on each of these for you to review.
Approximately 2700 students attend Three Rivers Community Schools. Each of these students has different educational, social, and emotional needs. Our students have a range of skills and needs, including students with at-risk behaviors. We also have exemplary students who attend school daily and never encounter any difficulties. As educators and as part of a state and federally funded organization, we are required to meet every student’s needs, regardless of a student’s social and emotional behavior or academic needs.
When situations arise within the district involving students, we must protect each child to the fullest extent of the law. This means protecting student privacy and all student educational records, including discipline. And before we release information, we must be sure that our information is accurate, fair, factual, and non-biased. Although we may not disclose information as soon as we would like at times, we must follow these guidelines.
If I could caution our staff, parents/guardians, and colleagues, it would be to not rely on social media like Facebook or Twitter for factual accounts of incidents. Often these postings reflect personal perspectives that have not been verified for accuracy.
Please take a moment to review the information about FERPA, FAPE, and Due Process below. And please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Jean Logan, Superintendent
FAMILY EDUCATIONAL RIGHTS PROTECTION ACT (FERPA)
FERPA requires that federally funded institutions, under programs administered by the United States Department of Education, comply with certain procedures with regard to disclosing and maintaining educational records. FERPA was not enacted to preclude the disclosure of educational records simply because the records identify a student by name; rather, it was designed to protect the student’s educational information and status as a student.FERPA prohibits the disclosure of a student’s “protected information” to a third party. This disclosure is prohibited regardless of whether it is made by hand delivery, verbally, fax, mail, or electronic transmission.
FERPA classifies protected information into three categories: (1) educational information; (2) personally identifiable information; and (3) directory information.
Although personally identifiable and directory information are often similar or related, FERPA provides different levels of protection for each. In this regard, personally identifiable information can only be disclosed if the educational institution obtains the signature of the parent or student (if over 18 years of age) on a document specifically identifying the information to be disclosed, the reason for the disclosure, and the parties to whom the disclosure will be made. Failure to comply with these requirements will result in a violation of FERPA.
On the other hand, with respect to directory information, FERPA does not bar disclosure by the educational institution. Directory information, such as a list of students’ names, addresses, and telephone numbers, can be disclosed provided that the educational institution has given public notice of the type of information to be disclosed, the right of every student to forbid disclosure, and the time period within which the student or parent must act to forbid the disclosure.
With respect to educational information, FERPA precludes the disclosure of this information absent the prior approval of the student or parent. FERPA defines “education records” as “records, files, documents, and other materials” that are “maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a person acting for such agency or institution.” Educational information includes a student’s transcripts, GPA, grades, social security number, and academic evaluations, and discipline records.
– See more at:http://www.naceweb.org/public/ferpa0808.htm#sthash.9acmi07r.dpuf
FREE APPROPRIATE PUBLIC EDUCATION (FAPE)
FAPE is the acronym for a Free and Appropriate Public Education. A required component of the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA), FAPE mandates that school districts provide access to general education and specialized educational services. It also requires that children with disabilities receive support free of charge as is provided to non-disabled students. It also provides access to general education services for children with disabilities by encouraging that support and related services be provided to children in their general education settings as much as possible.
The district must provide a program that:
• Complies with the procedural requirements of IDEA;
• Addresses the child’s unique needs as identified by evaluations, observation, and the child’s educational team and,
• Is coordinated to ensure the child is able to make adequate progress in the educational setting.
FAPE requires that the quality of educational services provided to students with disabilities be equal to those provided to non-disabled students.
The student with a disability:
• Must have access to nonacademic and extracurricular activities equal to those provided to non-disabled peers.
– See more at: http://www.ncld.org/parents-child-disabilities/ld-rights/what-is-fape-what-can-it-mean-my-child
Fairness dictates that students be given notice of the types of conduct which are prohibited and the potential consequences of the misconduct. A school’s rules and procedures for suspending or expelling a student should be outlined in the handbook adopted by the local board of education.Suspension–10 Days or Less
For a suspension of 10 days or less, a student is entitled to minimal due process protections, including oral or written notice of the accusation(s), what disciplinary measures are being proposed, and an opportunity to respond. If feasible, the notice and hearing should precede the student’s removal from school. If the student’s presence poses a danger to persons or property or threatens to disrupt the academic process, prior notice and hearing may not be feasible. In this case, a hearing should follow the student’s removal from school as soon as possible.
Suspension – More Than 10 Days and Expulsions
A more formal due process procedure is required when serious disciplinary measures are alleged against a student. The student shall be given reasonable time to prepare for the hearing. The person conducting the disciplinary hearing must be impartial. The board of education, a school administrator or disciplinary panel may conduct the hearing as long as they are truly impartial.
Students with Disabilities
Students with disabilities are afforded specific due process protection in cases of suspension or expulsion under state and federal law.
– See more at:http://www.michigan.gov/documents/suspensions_118759_7.pdf