Answer: There is no duty for schools to find or contact an unaccompanied youth’s parents or guardians. However, if a parent or legal guardian contacts the school to inquire about his or her child, the school must share the student’s educational records with the parent/legal guardian, upon confirming their identity, unless the youth has alleged abuse and the school has contacted Child Protective Services or law enforcement. In that case, the school should refer the parent to the appropriate agency. Once the youth turns 18, the youth gains control over records disclosure.

In addition, it seems like it would be very beneficial for someone the student trusts to talk to him about the home situation. We know it can take a long time for youth to feel enough trust to disclose what is really going on at home. Still, someone could sit down with him, explain that the school is required to share school records with the youth’s parents, and try to find out if there is a risk of abuse. Depending on what is disclosed, the school may need to call CPS, which could trigger that court order keeping the parents away. At the same time, it could trigger child welfare involvement that the youth may not (probably does not) want. So a clear, honest conversation with the student about the various consequences would at least help the student feel some small level of control over his circumstances.

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