On May 31, 2012, a bill was introduced in Congress that proposes to allow greater access to the education records of students in foster care. The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), with limited exceptions, prohibits local education agencies (LEA) from disclosing personally identifiable information (PII) maintained in a student’s education records without first obtaining written consent from the parent or eligible student. H.R. 5871, nick-named the A+ Plus Act, would add a new exception to FERPA’s consent requirement; consent would not be required for the LEA to disclose PII to a state or local child welfare agency or tribal organization when such agency or organization has responsibility for the student’s placement and care.
Currently, the FERPA parental consent requirement hinders the efforts of child welfare agencies to ensure that children in foster care are promptly enrolled in school, in attendance daily, and achieving academically. Although FERPA allows a child welfare agency to have access to a foster child’s education records pursuant to court order, the LEA must make reasonable effort to notify the parent prior to disclosure. The A+ Plus Act would provide child welfare agencies direct access to the education records of students in foster care without prior parental consent. The Act would also provide that, if a parent is a party to a court proceeding where an order is issued granting a child welfare agency access to a student’s education records, the LEA is not be required to give the parent additional notice prior to disclosure. According to a statement by the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth, the A+ Plus Act “seeks to provide relief for children and youth in foster care who are often the most at risk and overlooked of all student populations.” The proposed legislation was introduced by the four co-chairs of the Caucus.