As we begin a busy new school year, parents are faced with the challenge of figuring out all the logistics involved with school age children: shuttling kids to and from activities, helping them with homework, attending parent/teacher conferences, and completing the endless paperwork of school.
Divorced parents are often faced with the challenges of completing these same tasks, only in conjunction with someone outside of their home.
On July 1, 2014, the Tennessee Parental Bill of Rights changed with regard to the rights of parents who do not have primary custody of their child(ren). If you are co-parenting in the state of Tennessee, this new language is important to you. Below are a few examples of the changes to the Parental Bill of Rights, as it relates to school:
The Right to Educational Records
Both parents have the right to receive any educational records customarily made available to parents directly from the child’s school. This means a school cannot legally withhold information about their child’s education from either parent. Likewise, one parent cannot withhold a child’s educational information from the other parent. Upon request from one parent, the parent enrolling the child in school must provide the name, address, telephone number, and other contact information for the school to the other parent as soon as it is available each academic year.
In the case of children who are being homeschooled, the parent providing the homeschooling must advise the other parent of this fact, along with the contact information of any sponsoring entity or other entity involved in the child’s education, including access to any individual student records or grades available online.
The school or homeschooling entity is responsible for providing records customarily made available to parents to each of the parents, if requested. These records include copies of the child’s report cards, attendance records, names of teachers, class schedules, and standardized test scores.
The Right to be Given Notice
Each parent has the right to be given at least forty-eight (48) hours notice, whenever possible, of all extracurricular school, athletic, church activities, and other activities in which parental participation or observation would be appropriate.
The parent who has enrolled the child in each activity must advise the other parent of the activity and provide contact information for the person responsible for its scheduling so that the other parent may make arrangements to participate or observe whenever possible, unless otherwise provided by law or court order.
The Right to Reasonable Access
Each parent has the right to access and participate in their child’s education on the same bases that are provided to all parents. This includes the right of access to the child during lunch and other school activities; provided that their participation is legal and reasonable. However, access must not interfere with the school’s day-to-day operations or with the child’s educational schedule.
The goal of these changes is to ensure that both parents remain involved as much as possible in their child’s education. If you are a custodial parent, you legally cannot shut the other parent out of these activities. If you are a noncustodial parent, you now have the legal right to be an active participant in your child’s education; do everything you can to get involved. It is in your children’s best interests for both parents to be involved in both their school and extracurricular activities. If you believe you are being denied this access, speak with a family attorney.
— Justin K. Thomas is the head of Thomas Family Law Firm, PLC.