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Schools have child custody disputes procedures

Disputes over child custody are not restricted to families. Schools often become involved and must implement procedures to protect children. Access to school records, not abduction, is the biggest complaint involving schools from non-custodial parents according to a security consultant. Unless a specific court order prohibits access, however, a non-custodial parent has a right to their child's records.

The federal Family Educational Rights Privacy Act grants both parents in Louisiana and throughout the country equal access to their child's school records. If it is proven that a non-custodial parent is abusive, however, schools may redact parts of the record containing the school name, parent or child's address and the abused parent's workplace. Schools may be held liable if an abusive parent gains access to this information.

Courts are not required to notify schools about a parent's custody rights. Accordingly, parents should submit legal documents concerning custody and any civil or restraining orders at the beginning of each academic year to help assure that non-custodial parental rights are handled effectively. School officials also need to understand legal terms in court documents, such as types of child custody, because each type has different rights and obligations.

Parents should also inform schools about the parent's right to visit or pick up the child after school. Current photographs should be provided to school staff. If possible, staff members should be familiar with friends and family of non-custodial parents who have restricted access. Schools must also have strong visitor management procedures and implement best practices for late check-ins, student drop offs and early releases. When a parent picks up a child, staff should utilize an online Student Information System which manages student and parental data.

Parents should also produce valid identification when they come for their children. Logs and visitor photographs may also track parents who come and leave the school. All visitors should also wear identification badges. Monitoring of playgrounds and parking lots is also important.

Source: Campus Safety Magazine, "How schools should protect students from child custody disputes," Amy Rock, April 23, 2018

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