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Confidentiality And The Law Essay, Research Paper

Confidentiality and the Law

Confidentiality regarding the information in children’s school records is of large concern to parents. Parents worry about the information being accurate, and they also worry about access being restricted to those individuals with a justifiable reason. The issue of confidentiality has received a great deal of attention, hence several laws designed to protect not only the student, but also teachers, school counselors, and other administrators. This article looked at four different laws designed to uphold confidentiality when dealing with students’ records.

The first act discussed is the Family Education and Privacy Act (FERPA, 1974), which is also known as the Buckley Amendment. It gives parents and students the right to review their school records. Any school district that receives federal funding must comply with FERPA or lose their funding. This act also says that schools must restrict the viewing of a child’s records to only those necessary, meaning teachers, parents, school counselors, and administrators. Records that are excluded from this act are personal records, a doctor or psychologist’s treatment records, and directory information that might include a student’s demographic information, grade level, dates of attendance, physical description, etc. Parents must give consent before records are released or information is disclosed to outside parties. However, FERPA was amended in 1994 so that schools do not have to get consent to disclose information in the records to certain state and local officials in connection with the juvenile justice system. Also under these

Amendments, information concerning disciplinary actions taken upon a student that posed a serious risk to that student may be included in the child’s record.

Another act discussed in this article was the Grassley Amendment (1994). This protects students involved in any type of survey, analysis, or evaluation project. School districts must receive parental consent to allow students to be involved in such activities that collect information from the children regarding issues such as mental problems, sexual behavior, illegal or anti-social behavior, and political affiliations. This act, however, does not apply to information that is given on a voluntary basis.

Confidentiality is also provided to persons receiving drug or alcohol treatment under federal law; (Drug Abuse Office and Treatment Act, 1976). These records must me kept under “lock and key”, and pertain to any program that receives any type of federal funding. These records are to be kept separate from other educational records. Written consent must be given by the parent before this information can be disclosed, unless there are one of the following circumstances: medical emergency, to qualified personnel conducting research, (without identity being made), and under a court order.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, (IDEA, 1997), is also discussed in this article regarding confidentiality. Clear cut guidelines have been set up for schools concerning collecting, releasing, and destroying identifiable information on students. Legislation at the federal and state levels have set guidelines in their educational plans concerning this personal information. Under this act, schools must have written policies that notify parents of their right to inspect records, and how the information is stored, disclosed, and destroyed. Also, parents must be given notice annually on their right to file a complaint or argue any information in their child’s record.

We as counselors must maintain and encourage confidentiality regarding our clients and all students. Breach of confidence in unnecessary situations, (those not involving harm to self or others), is unethical, unprofessional, and in some instances could be grounds for a lawsuit. Although counselors in Tennessee do not have privileged communication, confidentiality should still be maintained. Counselors do have to right to keep personal notes, which can be held confidential. We must make ourselves aware of these laws. When in doubt about a confidentiality issue, or any other issue concerning our profession, counselors should consult with colleges.


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