Legal Question of the Week – 1/23/15

By Attorney Thomas B. Mooney, Neag School of Education, University of Connecticut

The “Legal Question of the Week” is a regular feature of the CAS Weekly NewsBlast. We invite readers to submit short,
law-related questions of practical concern to school administrators. Each week, we will select a question and publish an
answer. While these answers cannot be considered formal legal advice, they may be of help to you and your colleagues.
We may edit your questions, and we will not identify the authors.

Please submit your questions to: legalmailbagatcasciacdotorg. __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________


Dear Legal Mailbag:

I drew the short straw, and I am the safe school climate specialist for my school. As such, I have to investigate bullying complaints, truly one of my least favorite things. I try to keep a low profile and keep things quiet until I complete my investigation. But then the hard part comes when the parents demand to see my report. I never know what to do. On the one hand, they certainly have a right to see my report. On the other, however, I worry that, despite my best efforts, their receiving a copy of the report will violate the rights of the other family. I redact the names of other students, but they may figure it out anyway. Do you have any bright ideas?

Seeking Help


Dear Seeking:

You are right to be concerned about the privacy rights of the other students; and, you are wrong in your presumption that you must share your report with students or parents at the end of your investigation.

The bullying statute, Connecticut General Statutes, Section 10-222d, provides that not later than forty-eight hours after the completion of the investigation you must notify (1) the parents or guardians of students who commit any verified acts of bullying, and (2) the parents or guardians of students against whom such acts were directed, of your findings. This notification must include “a description of the response of school employees to such acts and any consequences that may result from the commission of further acts of bullying.” In addition, you must then invite the parents or guardians of the student(s) against whom such act or acts were directed to a meeting to communicate the measures being taken by the school to ensure the student’s safety and the policies and procedures in place to prevent further acts of bullying. You must also invite to a separate and distinct meeting the parents or guardians of a student who commits any verified act of bullying to discuss specific interventions undertaken by the school to prevent further acts of bullying. The invitation to these meetings must also include “a description of the response of school employees to such acts and any consequences that may result from the commission of further acts of bullying,” as is required of the notification.

Significantly, there is no requirement under the bullying law to provide parents with a copy of your report. Moreover, as you anticipated, doing so would likely be a FERPA problem, because the report would include personally-identifiable information about two or more students. Given the knowledge of the students involved in such matters, it may simply be impossible to protect the privacy rights of the students involved by redacting names. Accordingly, you may simply provide the notification and hold the meetings as required by the law without sharing the actual report.

Finally, I have a little more bad news for you. Notwithstanding your legitimate concern about not wanting parents to lobby you during your investigation, last year the General Assembly added a new requirement under the bullying statute. Now, you must provide prompt notice to parents of both the alleged perpetrator of bullying and the alleged victim of bullying that you have commenced your investigation. Good luck with that.