Parents' Rights in Fairfax County Public Schools
Divorcing parents often have questions about their rights to information, decision-making and access in the Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). This is a summary of those rights, which apply to all parents including legal guardians and parents who are married, separated, divorced, or have never been married. For more information, consult FCPS regulation 2240 the principal of your child’s school, or the school’s webpage. If you believe an employee of your child’s school is improperly denying you the rights summarized here or detailed in FCPS regulation 2240 (which is the official policy), please provide a copy of this summary to that employee and ask him or her to contact the school principal. Principals with questions should contact the Cluster Assistant Superintendent.
Right to Student Information and Records
Any parent, regardless of whether he or she has custody, and regardless of whether the other parent objects, has the right to review or have copies of records about his or her child. The parent need only ask the school for the record he or she wants. Requests will be denied only if there is a court order that specifically limits or denies the parent’s right to school records.
It is FCPS practice to provide a copy of school communications to the parent with whom the child lives the majority of the school week and who registers the child at school (the enrolling parent). It is the responsibility of the enrolling parent to share such communications with the other parent. Some parents request that the school provide separate copies of every type of school communication on an ongoing basis. Parents do not have the right to such “standing orders” for duplicate copies of all information that may be generated in the future. Principals will attempt to accommodate such requests if they have the resources.
You can learn a great deal about your child’s academic program and about school activities through Blackboard (24-7) and the school and FCPS websites. Read about establishing a 24/7 parent account at http://www.fcps.edu/is/instructionaltechnology/247help/parents.shtml. If you need help, contact your school’s principal.
Right to Visit Child at School and to Participate in School Activities
Any parent, regardless of whether he or she has custody, and regardless of whether the other parent objects, has the right to attend school events open to parents generally, such as parent lunches, parent-teacher conferences and assemblies. A parent may exercise this right at any time, not just at times or on days that the parent has visitation with the child pursuant to a visitation schedule. For exceptions, please see the Additional Limitations section below.
Right to Have the Child Released from School
Any parent who has legal custody of the child may have the child released to him or her on request, regardless of whether or not the other parent objects. A parent with legal custody may exercise this right at any time, not just at times or on days when the parent has visitation with the child pursuant to a visitation schedule. Please note that FCPS assumes that all natural parents have legal custody of their children unless the school has been presented with a valid court order denying the parent that right. In cases of separation, divorce or other custody dispute, FCPS will consider court orders stating that a parent has sole legal custody or has legal custody in a shared arrangement with the other parent (joint, shared, or split) to be confirmation that a parent has legal custody of the child. If the parent has been denied legal custody rights by court order, he or she may not pick up the child after school, or have the child released to him or her during the school day, unless the custodial parent consents. Please see the Additional Limitations section below.
Rights Relating to Emergency Care Card
The enrolling parent is responsible for completing the emergency care card. The other parent, however, has the right to be listed on the card along with the enrolling parent. Being listed on the card means that a parent may be notified and provided information about an emergency, but does not mean that a noncustodial parent can pick up or remove the child from school without the consent of the custodial parent (see “release” section above).
Rights to Make Educational Decisions
When parents share legal custody of the child, both parents may participate in educational decisions regarding their child. The enrolling parent is responsible for attempting to reach consensus when the parents disagree. In the event of continuing disagreement, the principal will follow the decision of the enrolling parent. If sole legal custody has been awarded to one parent, however, the principal will follow the decision of that parent. Both parents, regardless of custodial status, may be involved in decisions regarding special education services for the child.
If a parent is on the sex offender registry or has been ordered by a court to stay away from the school, that parent will not be allowed on school grounds at any time. If there is a court order requiring the parent to stay away from the child, or to be with the child only on a supervised basis, that parent will not be allowed to participate in school events at which the child is present or have the child released to him or her. Additionally, the principal may ban from school grounds any person, including a parent, who is disruptive or presents an immediate danger to health and safety, regardless of the rights that person may otherwise have.
In situations where a parent is not allowed on school grounds, the principal will make alternate arrangements for the parent to participate in the child’s education, such as arranging for parent-teacher conferences to be held by telephone.
Your Objections or Concerns about the Other Parent’s Participation in your Child’s Education
Principals cannot limit one parent’s right to participate solely on the basis of the other parent’s objection. The objecting parent must present the school with a court order that does one of the following: denies the other parent legal custody, prohibits the other parent from coming to the child’s school or having contact with the child, restricts the other parent to supervised visitation, limits the other parent’s access to school records or denies the other parent any role in educational decision making. Without such a court order, school staff will assume a parent has full participation rights.
Please note that when one parent believes the other is violating a court order, or presents a danger to parent or child, the parent should seek relief from the court, the police, or appropriate social services agency, such as Child Protective Services.