In December, the Legal Ledger reported that the Federal Commission on School Safety, formed by President Trump after the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, had released its report and recommendations. In the Commission's report, it offered a holistic approach to improve school safety and made numerous recommendations for both the US Department of Education and state and local education agencies.  Several of the report’s recommendations focused on students with mental and behavioral health concerns and the role districts play in connecting those students with needed treatment and services. From the report’s executive summary: “Improving access to school-based mental health and counseling for young people is an important aspect of prevention.”

Continuing in its effort to assist Ohio school districts as they serve Ohio’s public school board members and the diverse students they serve, OSBA will host the March 1 Special Education Law Workshop, which will focus primarily on these issues. Included on the agenda are Dr. Cricket Meehan, the Director of Miami University’s Center for School-Based Mental Health Programs, who will discuss resources available to districts serving students with mental and behavioral health challenges, covering topics such as social-emotional learning, warning signs, triggers, evaluations, collaborating with families, bullying, social isolation, threat assessment and appropriate learning environments. The workshop is open to board members, administrators and employees serving school districts and educational service centers that are members of OSBA. More information about the workshop is available here.

Another recommendation in the Commission's report was that the U.S. Department of Education should provide technical assistance related to when student information can be shared with teachers, staff, law enforcement personnel and state educational agencies consistent with FERPA. On Tuesday, USDOE released a comprehensive set of FAQs on FERPA in the context of school safety. 

The document is titled School Resource Officers, School Law Enforcement Units and the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). It consolidates previously issued guidance and technical assistance into a single resource to help raise schools' and districts' awareness of these provisions.

The document addresses 37 questions about schools' responsibilities under FERPA relating to disclosures of student information to school resource officers, law enforcement units and others. The purpose of the FAQs is to explain and clarify how FERPA protects student privacy while ensuring the health and safety of students and others in the school community.

The division of legal services will continue to monitor releases and developments related to the Commission’s report. And we hope to see you at the Special Education Law Workshop on March 1.

Posted by Jennifer A. Hardin on 2/14/2019