It is well established law that parental rights grant the natural parent of a child access to educational records, as well as the right to attend IEP/PPT meetings on behalf of the child. However, it is not always as clear to a family or a school as to whether or not a stepparent shares these rights.
A stepparent has rights under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (“FERPA”) when the stepparent is present on a day-to-day basis with the natural parent and child, and the other parent is absent from that home. In such cases, stepparents have the same rights under FERPA as do natural parents. Conversely, a stepparent who is not present on a day-to-day basis in the home of the child does not have rights under FERPA with respect to such child’s education records.
Barring the existence of a court order to the contrary, each natural parent has the right to access records and/or designate other individuals to have access to the child’s educational records without the permission of the other parent. Naturally, this can often arise when parents are divorced and have a new spouse or were never married, to begin with. Thus, a natural parent cannot prevent the other natural parent or that parent’s designees from accessing the records without some type of court order.
In regard to stepparents’ attendance at IEP/PPT meetings, it will be important to review any separation agreement or divorce judgment regarding attendance at such meetings. In the event there is no court order stating otherwise, parent(s) or anyone in a parental relationship with the child can attend IEP/PPT meetings.
In the event a biological parent would like to grant access to a child’s medical records to a stepparent, a HIPPA authorization can be executed in order to disclose the child’s medical records to the stepparent and in order for the child’s medical professionals to be able to speak with the stepparent about the child.