Family Toolkit - Chapter 05 - Section 02 - English

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Family and Student Rights
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Family and Student Rights

As a family member with school-aged children, you have certain rights. This is very important. A parent’s home country, citizenship, or immigration status does not change these rights. These rights include the following:

  • Students have the right to be free from discrimination based on race, color, national origin, sex, and disability.62
  • Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) says that school districts must provide the required communications to parents of ELs under Title I in an understandable format and, when possible, in a language that the parents understand. 63 They must provide information to all parents regardless of their native language or proficiency in English, about any program, service, or activity of a school district. 64 Additionally, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires that school districts and SEAs ensure meaningful communication with LEP parents in a language they can understand and adequately notify LEP parents of information about any program, service, or activity of a school district or SEA that is called to the attention of non-LEP parents.65 The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that consent (agreement or permission) from parents must be requested in the parent’s native language or through another form of communication understandable to the parents.66 Communication with parents may include information about
    • enrollment and registration;
    • language assistance;
    • grievance procedures;67
    • notices of nondiscrimination;68
    • student discipline policies and procedures;
    • report cards;
    • requests for parent permission for student participation in district or school activities;
    • parent-teacher conferences;
    • parent handbooks;
    • gifted and talented education programs (GATE);69
    • disability-related services70 for students with disabilities;
    • magnet and charter schools;71
    • language instruction educational programs;
    • childcare; or
    • extracurricular activities.
  • All school-age children, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, may access free public school education in the school district where they live.72
  • Schools must provide a safe learning environment free from discrimination. Students should be able to learn in an environment free of bullying, discrimination, harassment, or violence.
  • Students should be able to feel safe at school. No one can bully or threaten your child. For example, students or teachers cannot injure your child or destroy his or her property, harass your child, or create a hostile environment for your child based on reasons such as
    • wearing ethnic or religious clothes;
    • being from another country;
    • not being proficient in English;
    • having a disability; or
    • their sex.
  • Under the U.S. Constitution, students may exercise their First Amendment right to express their religious beliefs. This includes wearing religious clothing and symbols (like a headscarf, crucifix, or yarmulke).
  • In public elementary and secondary schools,73 the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) (20 U.S.C. § 1232g; 34 C.F.R. part 99) gives parents the right to review (i.e., access) the education records74 of their children who are under the age of 18 years and do not attend college or university. The rights accorded under FERPA transfer from parents to a student when the student turns 18 or attends college or university. If your child’s school is subject to FERPA, the school must let you review any education records on your child that the school maintains. This could be your child’s class schedule and transcript (a complete record of the student’s academic achievements).
  • In public elementary and secondary schools, FERPA gives parents some control over the disclosure (e.g., for the release or transfer) of personally identifiable information (PII) from their child’s education records. PII is information that can be used to determine someone’s identity either directly or indirectly.75 In general, FERPA does not allow educational agencies and institutions76 to release PII from your child’s education records to people or groups outside of the educational agency or institution without your written permission, unless an exception to FERPA’s general consent requirement applies. Exceptions to FERPA’s general consent requirement can be found in 20 U.S.C. §§ 1232g(b)(1), (b)(2), (b)(3), (b)(5), (b)(6), (h), (i), and (j), and 34 CFR § 99.31.
  • IDEA also has confidentiality requirements that protect personally identifiable data, information, and records of children with disabilities (20 U.S.C. §1417(c) and 34 C.F.R. §§300.610−300.626). IDEA requires parental permission to share PII from the education records of children with disabilities unless an exception applies. The IDEA Part B confidentiality requirements include some of the FERPA requirements, in addition to several requirements that are specifically related to children with disabilities. For more information, see the U.S. Department of Education’s additional guidance regarding “IDEA and FERPA Confidentiality Provisions” guide released in June 2014: Schools must give ELs, including ELs with disabilities, equal access to all school facilities and programs, school health offices and counseling services.
  • Public schools must give pregnant students and students with children access to the same accommodations provided to students with temporary medical conditions. These accommodations include time to make up missed classwork and learn in a safe, nonjudgmental environment.
  • Child nutrition programs, such as National School Lunch Program,77 may offer free and reduced-price meals to children in need. Requirements for these programs may change from year to year, and some schools may offer free meals to all students.

62 Educational institutions have a responsibility to protect every student's right to learn in a safe environment free from unlawful discrimination and to prevent unjust deprivations of that right. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR) enforces several federal civil rights laws that prohibit discrimination in programs or activities that receive federal financial assistance from the Department of Education. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin is prohibited by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (This includes discrimination based on a person’s limited English proficiency or English learner status; and actual or perceived shared ancestry or ethnic characteristics, including membership in a religion that may be perceived to exhibit such characteristics (such as Hindu, Jewish, Muslim, and Sikh individuals)); sex discrimination is prohibited by Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972; discrimination on the basis of disability is prohibited by Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973; and age discrimination is prohibited by the Age Discrimination Act of 1975. OCR also has responsibilities under Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, which prohibits disability discrimination by public entities, whether or not they receive federal financial assistance.

63 ESEA 1112(e)(4). (

64 U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights &U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Fact Sheet: Information for limited English proficient (LEP) parents and guardians and for schools and school districts that communicate with them. Retrieved from

65 U.S. Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights & U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division. Fact Sheet: Information for limited English proficient (LEP) parents and guardians and for schools and school districts that communicate with them. Retrieved from

66 IDEA, 34 CFR 300.9.

67 A grievance procedure is a way for people to have their formal complaints addressed. Developing, publicizing, and effectively implementing these procedures gives students and parents opportunities to address concerns at the local level. (See

68 Notices of nondiscrimination require that schools notify students, parents, and others that they do not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability, and age, and, if applicable, that they provide equal access to the Boy Scouts of America and other designated youth groups. Retrieved from

69 Gifted education programs provide educational practices, procedures, and approaches for children who have been identified as gifted or talented. The main goals of these programs are generally enrichment and acceleration.

70 The term “disability-related services” may refer to special education and related services provided to children with disabilities who are eligible for services under Part B of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and/or regular or special education and related aids and services provided to qualified students with disabilities under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. See Chapter 3 for more information on disability-related services for EL students with disabilities.

71 See definitions in Resources.

72 Students with F-1 or M-1 non-immigrant visas attending private schools are responsible for paying tuition, F-1 visa holders attending a public secondary school are responsible for paying the full, unsubsidized per capita cost of attending school. (See:

73 Private elementary and secondary schools generally do not receive funds from the Department. Therefore, they are not subject to FERPA.

74 “Education records” are, with certain exceptions, records that are directly related to a student and maintained by an educational agency or institution, or by a party acting for an educational agency or institution.

75 This includes, but is not limited to, a student’s name; the names of a student’s parents or other family members; the address of a student or a student’s family; and a personal identifier, such as a student’s Social Security number, student number, or biometric record (for example, fingerprints). This also includes other indirect identifiers, such as a student’s date of birth, place of birth, and mother’s maiden name. It also includes information that, alone or in combination, is linked or linkable to a student and would allow a reasonable person in the school community, who does not have personal knowledge of the relevant circumstances, to identify the student with reasonable certainty.

76 The term “educational agency or institution” generally refers to school districts, public elementary and secondary schools, and postsecondary institutions.

77 National School Lunch Program is a food and nutrition program provided by United States Department of Agriculture. For more information, visit