By Rick Boothby
The West Virginia School Board Association often receives questions concerning student disciplinary action(s), especially in terms of student-related hearings.
Here are some frequent questions received:
Should a county board include the name of a student who is being considered for disciplinary action in its agenda? Or, should the student be designated by reference?
- The student’s name should never be included on the public agenda. In a very small county, the agenda item should be very general so as to avoid identifying the student: “Student expulsion hearing.” In a medium- or larger-sized county, the following might be used “Student expulsion hearing for a high school student.” This provides enough information to give the public reasonable notice of the matter the board is considering without violating FERPA.
If, after a hearing has occurred, should the student and his parents be present when the board makes its decision about the disposition of the matter? Or, should the student be sequestered away from the members and public?
- There is no legal requirement that the board make special arrangements to avoid this situation. And parents may choose to sit in the room when the decision is made. Having said that, ideally, an administrator will have already explained to the parents that, for privacy reasons, they may not want to be seated with the general public in the board room. Some boards do make arrangements for the parents and students to enter the building and wait for their hearing in an area away from the main board room.
Would designating the student by name be a violation of FERPA?
- Yes, absolutely.
Would non-sequestering of the student violate FERPA?
- No, however, as stated above, it would probably be a good practice to make such arrangements.
Boothby is a partner with Bowles Rice McDavid Graff & Love. He is a member of the firm’s education law group. He has presented numerous workshops for county boards and WVSBA.