Answer: To our knowledge, FERPA does not provide parents the right to access online databases of this kind.  FERPA does give parents the right to “the opportunity to inspect and review the student’s education records.”  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean immediate access to an online database. The FERPA regulations clearly give the school up to 45 days to comply with a request to inspect records.  The request can be granted by giving the parent access to the information at the school office, or providing copies. 34 CFR §99.10. So under FERPA, it appears you could deny a parent access to the online database at an unaccompanied youth’s request.

In addition, even beyond FERPA, the McKinney-Vento Act would require you to honor the youth’s wishes in this situation.  The McKinney-Vento Act requires LEAs to remove barriers to enrollment and retention in school for children and youth experiencing homelessness.  42 USC §11432(g)(1)(I). The parent mocking the student on Facebook certainly could cause the kind of humiliation that could lead a student to drop out of school.  (Or worse– It’s not overly dramatic to note that students experiencing homelessness are 7.2 times more likely to attempt suicide than their housed peers, with over a third of homeless high school students reporting a suicide attempt over a single school year.) The McKinney-Vento Act would require the school to take action to remove the barrier to enrollment (which includes full participation) and retention in school.  Blocking the parent from the online database would help do that.

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