Monday, February 15, 2010

A Cincinnati Catholic School System Policy may put Children at Risk

...At least as indicated by one principal of a Cincinnati Catholic School.

I recently attended my daughter's parent/teacher conference which the principal sat in on. Principal "Doe" stated that non-custodial parents were not entitled to student records such as emergency contact numbers, registration information, etc... Ms. Doe explained to me that the Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act (also known as the Buckley Amendment) "says you have a right to educational information. That's not emergency phone numbers." By Ms. Doe's statements, the non-custodial parent would have no way of determining if they were listed as an emergency contact if the custodial parent did not want the school to share that information with the other parent. Ms. Doe also stated, "There aren't any records on a kindergarten student." When I asked Ms. Doe for copies of my daughter's medical records that the school is in possession of, Ms. Doe stated "I'm not quite sure why you would want it. Are you going to call her doctor and say 'how's [my daughter] doing?" I asked Ms. Doe why she was being so combative and she replied, "I don't know. Why are you? Wanting copies of stuff that you know you have no right to."

The school's policy in the Parent/Student Handbook states, "The school abides by the provisions of the Buckley Amendment with respect to the rights on non-primary caregiving parents. In the absence of a court order to the contrary, [the school] will provide the non-primary caregiving parent with the access to the academic records and to other school-related information regarding the child." When I asked Ms. Doe if she had a copy of the law, she replied, "Yeah I got the case law. Do you?" I replied "yes I do" to which Ms. Doe replied, "Well good then we're on the same page."

I have never experienced a school administrator with such an antagonistic personality. All I requested was a copy of the records that the school has for my daughter. Last December, Assistant Superintendent Mary Henninger informed me that there were no records to give other than two progress reports. Ms. Doe was adamant that there were no other records in my daughter's file. Ms. Doe was so adamant, she invited me glance over the contents of the file in her office.

"There's her [my daughter's] picture. There's the registration form. Student enrollment. Your picture." This is what Ms. Doe stated when she flipped through my daughter's file. To say the least, I was surprised to see a photo of me with a post-it note in her file. When I asked Ms. Doe to see the photo, Ms. Doe replied, "I think it's the same one you sent me, actually." I did not send the photo to the school. The photo was my wedding photo with my ex-wife cut out of the picture. When I asked her for a copy of the photo and the attached note, Ms. Doe stated, "I don't know who wrote the note on there to be quite honest with you."

I find it hard to believe that the principal of the school did not know who provided the school with a photo of me or who wrote the note attached to my photo; especially when the note stated "Please call the police if he appears at school for any reason." If Ms. Doe would have compared the handwriting on the note to my daughter's registration, she would have been able to see that it was the handwriting of my ex-wife. Why doesn't a principal of a school know who wrote a note that says to call the police if a parent "appears at school for any reason"? Maybe a better question is, why is the school inviting me to parent teacher conferences when my ex-wife is instructing them to call the police if I appear at the school for any reason? There were no restraining orders in my daughter's record, yet there is a note to call the police if I appear at the school. The Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act was enacted to protect the accuracy of student records. Obviously there is no order to support my ex-wife's request for police intervention because the school would not have invited me to parent/teacher conferences, yet, as a non-custodial parent, I do not have the ability to review the accuracy of the rest of my daughter's files per the policy of the Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

My experience with the principal of this particular Cincinnati Catholic School is disturbing on a variety of levels. The biggest problem is that, as a non-custodial parent, Principal Doe claims that I do not have a right to all records pertaining to my daughter. Ms. Doe told me that there was probably only one emergency contact number in my daughter's record. Ms. Doe stated, "there aren't any student records on a kindergarten student." After telling me there are no records for my daughter besides a couple of progress reports, and telling me that I was not entitled to a copy of my daughter's records from the school, Principal Doe proceeded to give me a copy of a photo of me with a note stating that the police should be called if I appeared at the school for any reason. Ms. Doe claimed the photo came from me and she did not know where the note came from. Since there are no restraining orders, whoever wrote the note was providing the school with false information. Principal Doe stated the Archdiocese's policy prevented me from inspecting the rest of my daughter's student record to see if there is any information, or lack thereof, that may be harmful to my daughter. Principal Doe's actions also call into question the school's ability to keep students safe from truly dangerous individuals. The school invited me to attend parent teacher conferences despite there being a note in my daughter's record instructing the school to call the police if I appear at the school for any reason. Principal Doe stated she didn't know where the note came from yet she gave me a copy of the note while I was standing in the school office. If Principal Doe did not believe that my ex-wife's note instructing the school to call the police was credible, then Principal Doe and the Catholic Archdiocese may be putting my daughter's emotional and physical well-being at risk. The policy of the Catholic Archdiocese prohibits me from inspecting my daughter's records to see if there is more inaccurate information that may be damaging to my daughter or her father. It's very disturbing when an educational institution prevents a non-custodial parent from inspecting their own child's record when the school is aware that inaccurate information exists in the file.

I love you girls. Daddy won't give up on you.

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