Education FAQ’s

If you have a different question than listed here, visit our library for guides and factsheets on education law issues.

What student records are schools permitted to keep?

School districts are permitted to keep records containing academic and non-academic information about a student, such as results of evaluations, medical records and teacher reports. There are laws regarding what kind of information can be kept by a school district and who is permitted to view a student’s records.

Mandated information

This is information that a district is required by state law to keep, such as name, address, telephone number, date of birth, parents’ names, gender, attendance, academic records, health history, documentation of immunizations against communicable diseases and grade level or other program assignment.

These records can be released without a parent’s or an adult student’s (18 or older or emancipated) permission in certain limited situations. Even when records are released without permission, the parent/adult student has the right to be notified about the records being released.

Permitted information

This is information that school districts are allowed, but not required, to keep. It includes teacher observations and standardized test scores. Parental/adult student consent is required before this information can be released to anyone outside of the school district.

Maintaining information about religious or political affiliation or things said about a student without documentation is prohibited.

High school transcripts must be retained forever.  A high school transcript includes final grades, attendance and tardy records.  Future employers may request a student’s high school transcript.

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Do parents have a right to see their child’s school records?

Parents have a right to see their child’s records, as long as the child is under 18. If parents are divorced, they both have the same rights to see their children’s records, regardless of who has custody. Students have a right to see their records after they turn 18, or with their parent’s permission, if they are under 18.

The school can refuse to release information to students and to parents only when a court order has been issued forbidding access. The district may charge a reasonable fee for copying records, except when the parents/adult student is unable to pay the fee.

Parents and adult students, (18 years or older, or emancipated) have the right to challenge any information in the student records that they believe is inaccurate, irrelevant or prohibited. Parents and adult students can demand that the challenged information be explained, corrected or taken out entirely. If a school district refuses to change the student record, this action can appealed to the local board of education or to the state commissioner of education. Parents and adult students may also oppose particular information in writing and then have that document placed in the student’s file.
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Can my child’s school records be released without my consent?

School records are confidential. They cannot be released without the parents’/adult student’s permission, except under certain circumstances, including to:

  • School personnel within a school district who are responsible for some part of the student’s education;
  • State and federal Departments of Education personnel during school monitoring;
  • The school district to which a student transfers or the educational personnel if a student is transferred to a state facility, a school for the handicapped, or a clinic;
  • An outside agency or individual upon court order, but parents/adult students must be notified.

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What are my district’s disciplinary rules?

Every New Jersey school district must have a written code of conduct or student handbook.  The handbook:

  • Should be distributed yearly to school staff, parents and students.
  • May be posted on school websites.
  • Copies may be obtained from school district board of education.

At a minimum, the handbook must include:

  • Student responsibilities, including behavior, attendance and expectations regarding academic achievement;
  • Behaviors that will result in suspension or expulsion;
  • Discipline rights of classified students;
  • Attendance policy;
  • Policy and procedures regarding bullying, intimidation and harassment; and
  • Student’s rights, including:
    1. advance notice of behaviors that will result in suspension or expulsion, 
    2. attendance in a safe and secure environment, 
    3. attendance despite marriage, pregnancy or parenthood, 
    4. due process, appeals procedures in disciplinary matters, 
    5. available behavioral supports and services.

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What disciplinary actions can a school district take against my child if he/she breaks the rules?

If a student violates a district’s “Code of Conduct” — a set of rules that every district is required to maintain and distribute yearly — districts can take the following actions for general education students (those not receiving special education services):

  • Deny participation in extracurricular activities, school functions and/or sports or graduation ceremonies;
  • Removal from classroom/detention;
  • In-school or out-of-school suspension;
  • Expulsion.

Reasonable force is permitted to quiet a disturbance that could physically hurt someone, to take a weapon or other dangerous object from a student, or to protect the student, others or property. Otherwise, corporal punishment (hitting or otherwise using physical force) is prohibited.

A disciplinary action cannot result in a student being prohibited from completing homework and tests and the days suspended may not be considered absences.

The district should determine whether services should be provided, such as counseling or a child study team referral, and a determination should be made whether a harassment, intimidation and bullying (HIB) investigation should be conducted.
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What actions can lead to immediate suspension of a student from school?

  • Assault on a teacher, another student or other school personnel.
  • Assault with a weapon or a firearms offense, even if this occurs outside of school grounds.
  •  Possession or suspicion of being under the influence of illegal/controlled substance or alcohol.

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What actions can justify a long-term school suspension or expulsion? What are a student’s rights in this case?

The following student conduct may lead to long-term suspension or expulsion: 

  • Continued and willful disobedience or defiance; 
  • Destruction of school property; 
  • Taking of property or money from another student by force; 
  • Joining or encouraging other students to unlawfully occupy school property; 
  • Having or using alcohol or illegal substances on school property; 
  • Open defiance of teachers and other staff; 
  • Conduct that is dangerous to other students.

Written notification of charges must be provided to the student and parent, including specific charges, relevant facts, a list of witnesses who will testify and due process rights, including right to counsel, cross-examination and the right to bring witnesses.

Students must be given the opportunity to address charges, a formal board of education meeting within 30 days of suspension and 10 hours a week of home instruction after the first five days of suspension on at least three separate days.
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What are a student’s rights in short-term suspensions (up to 10 consecutive days)?

Oral or written notification of the charges must be provided to the student and parent(s), including specific charges, relevant facts and due process rights. They must be given the opportunity to address the charges, offered an informal meeting with administrators (usually the vice-principal) and receive 10 hours a week of home instruction after the first five days of suspension on at least three separate days.
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What are the procedures for assault, weapons and firearms offenses?

When a student is suspended for assault, weapons or firearms offenses, the suspension continues until a board of education hearing is held, which cannot be more than 30 calendar days after the suspension. State law requires that the principal immediately notify law enforcement for weapon and firearms offenses.

A formal board of education hearing must be conducted that complies with the procedural due process requirements. The student will be placed in an alternate education program (except for classified students). If a placement is not immediately available, the student must receive 10 hours a week of home instruction within five days of the exclusion from school until a placement is available. The superintendent has discretion to determine when and if the student can return to the public school, taking into account all the relevant evidence.
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What are the procedures for drug/controlled substance and alcohol offenses?

The parent/caregiver must be immediately notified and, if available, take the student to be immediately examined by a physician. If the parent or the child’s physician is not available, the examination shall be conducted, at the school district’s expense, by the school physician or at a local emergency room, accompanied by school staff and a parent, if available. Removal continues until the school receives a physician’s report that the student is physically or mentally able to attend school.
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What are the appropriate responses and disciplinary actions for students classified as special education?

Classified students are subject to the same rules of conduct as general education students but administrators can exercise discretion in responding to the conduct or imposing a consequence based upon the child’s disability and other relevant factors.

These students are entitled to the same procedural rights, plus additional rights:

  • The student cannot be expelled from the school district.
  • The student cannot be punished for conduct that is a function of the student’s disability (though consequences can be imposed and conduct may result in a change in placement).
  • The student can be suspended for conduct that is dangerous/disruptive to the student or others and be required to obtain a psychiatric evaluation to determine if it is safe for the child to return to school.
  • A functional behavioral assessment should be conducted to develop an appropriate behavior modification plan that is part of the Individual Education Plan.
  • Response to conduct that is a function of the student’s disability should be the positive behavioral supports listed in the student’s behavior modification plan and agreed upon appropriate consequences also contained in the behavior plan.
  • Repeated suspensions or repeated requests for parents to pick up child from school or ineffectiveness of behavior plan should result in an IEP meeting to revise the plan based upon new evaluations, as necessary.
  • Students must receive 10 hours a week of home instruction after the first five days of suspension.
  • For students who receive a long-term suspension or a series of short-term suspensions that add up to more than 10 days, the IEP team must meet to determine whether the conduct was related to the student’s disability and whether the school continues to be an appropriate placement for the student.
  • When school administrators determine that a change in placement is required, the student can only be in an “interim placement” (such as home instruction) for 45 days until the new placement begins.
  • Administrators should consider whether a harassment, intimidation or bullying (HIB) assessment is appropriate.

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How do I appeal a school district’s decision?

A board of education decision can be appealed directly to the Commissioner of Education at the New Jersey Department of Education. In addition, for classified students, parents who wish to challenge a change in placement, a “manifestation determination,” or a suspension on the grounds that it violates a student’s rights, including procedural rights, may appeal the decision to the Office of Special Education at the New Jersey Department of Education.
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