The Connecticut State Department of Education (DOE) recently published guidance on implementing civil rights protections for transgender students. The guidance, in part, provides information on issues related to requests that a school change a student’s education records to be consistent with their chosen name and gender identity. Notably, the guidance recognized tension that may arise in some circumstances over who is entitled to request a change to a student’s education records.
Under the Family Educational and Privacy Act (FERPA), a student who is 18 years old or older, or the parents/guardians of students under the age of 18 have a right to request that misleading or inaccurate information in the student’s education record be corrected. The DOE concluded, however, that under civil rights laws a student under the age of 18 may have the right to change their education records even if their parent/guardian disagrees with the change. Recognizing that there was not clear case law on this issue, the DOE recommended that schools consult with legal counsel and counseling staff if such a disagreement arises. Until the disagreement is resolved, however, schools are directed to refer to the student in accordance with the student’s preference.
Guidance was also provided as to the maintenance of education records. The DOE stated that under FERPA, in a circumstance where a student is using a chosen name, that student’s birth name and gender are considered private medical information and, thus, this information may not be disclosed unless the disclosure is permitted by one of FERPA’s exceptions. Any records containing this information must be kept separate from the student’s cumulative record to maintain the student’s privacy.
The DOE also advised schools to develop a process for students and/or their parents/guardians to request that a student’s education records be changed to be consistent with the student’s chosen name and gender identity. The process should not require unique hurdles for requesting these types of changes, and should recognize that a student is not required to legally change their name before correcting their school record. Students and/or their parents/guardians should be advised by the school that if a student does not complete a legal name change, the discrepancy between the student’s education records and his/her college materials, driver’s license and other future documents may create an issue.