The Question Parents and educational advocates often ask me what to do when a teacher is "bullying" a student.
Massachusetts' Bullying Law Many people are surprised to learn that the Massachusetts Anti-Bullying law does not apply when teachers are "bullying" students. The Massachusetts Anti-Bullying law defines a "bully" as a "student," making it legally impossible for the teacher to be labeled a bully under this statute.
Reframing the Question Just because the anti-bullying law does not apply to teacher/student interactions, doesn't mean the teacher is acting appropriately. When I'm told a teacher is bullying as student I always ask for a more detailed description about the teacher's actions.
Is the teacher refusing to implement the student's IEP or 504 accommodations? Then the teacher is denying the child a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). Is the teacher continually making fun of the child's known or perceived disability? Then the teacher has committed disability-based harassment and discrimination. Is the teacher impermissibly sharing confidential information about the student? Then the teacher is violating the child's privacy rights under FERPA.
Getting Help Before any parent makes allegations against a teacher, it's important to have a clear understanding of what events took place and what laws are implicated. It's also useful to corroborate reports of teacher "bullying" and provide supporting documentation to the school. If you have questions about the laws governing teacher/student interactions, contact the Boston area law office of Lillian E. Wong today.
Background I recently wrote an article called Education Law and ADD/ADHD Medication. In that article, I addressed whether it was legal for schools to require ADD/ADHD medication, whether teachers could talk to parents about ADD/ADHD medication, and whether schools could refuse to administer ADD/ADHD medication. Read that article here.
The Question After reading that article, readers had one remaining question - is it permissible for my child's teacher to talk to him or her about their medication?
The Answer It depends on whether the conversation is private. If the teacher is asking your child about taking ADD/ADHD medication in front of other students or parents, the teacher is arguably violating the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA mandates that personal information, like what medication a student takes, may only be disclosed if there is a legitimate educational interest in the disclosure. FERPA also provides exceptions for disclosure in emergency situations. If the conversation is private, the teacher has acted appropriately.
If you have questions about the rights of children with ADD/ADHD, contact the Boston area Law Office of Lillian E. Wong today.
This question was posted on Avvo.com by an individual in Melville, NY. Here is my response:
FERPA stands for the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. It gives parents the right to inspect, review, and receive a copy of their child's educational records. Under the law, parents may request that school officials explain the contents of the record, and if the parents disagree with its contents, they may ask the school to amend inaccurate information. FERPA also forbids the disclosure of any "personally identifiable information" about the child without parental consent.
I would recommend hiring a lawyer if you are having difficulty accessing or amending your child's file or if you feel confidential information about your child has been compromised.