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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Can Report Cards and Transcripts State that Your Child has a Disability?

From The Friendship Circle Blog

By Michael Dorfman, Esq.
January 6, 2014

Must my child’s report cards and transcripts state that he or she has a disability?

For students with disabilities, questions arise about whether the information conveyed by report cards and transcripts can include information about the students’ disabilities, including whether those students received special education and related services.

The issue is how do federal laws apply to statements on report cards and transcripts when these statements identify students as students with disabilities?

“The Letter”

A couple of years back, the Office for Civil Rights is the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the topic in a “Dear Colleague Letter.” The Letter represents the U.S. Department of Education’s current thinking on a topic, but does not create or confer any rights on anyone. The Letter also does not impose any requirements beyond those in applicable laws and regulations.

The Difference Between Report Cards and Transcripts

Report cards and transcripts convey information about students. School districts issue report cards to parents to indicate their child’s progress or level of achievement in specific classes, course content, or curriculum. These report cards are made available to parents, not to post-secondary institutions, potential employers, and others outside of the school district.

In contrast, a student’s transcript generally is intended to inform post-secondary institutions or prospective employers of a student’s academic credentials and achievements. Accordingly, there is an expectation that a student’s transcript could be shared with persons other than the student and the student’s parents.

What are the Rules for Report Cards and Transcripts?

Report Cards

Under federal disability discrimination laws, the general principle is that report cards may contain information about a student’s disability, including whether that student received special education or related services, as long as the report card informs parents about their child’s progress or level of achievement in specific classes, course content, or curriculum, consistent with the underlying purpose of a report card.

Transcripts

However, transcripts may not contain information disclosing students’ disabilities. Transcripts are provided to persons other than the student and the student’s parents, to convey information about a student’s academic credentials and achievements. Information about a student’s disability, including whether that student received special education or related services due to having a disability, is not information about a student’s academic credentials and achievements.

Therefore, transcripts may not provide information on a student’s disability.

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