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Michael Dorfman
BY Michael Dorfman
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Can Report Cards and Transcripts State that your Child has a Disability?

Must My Child’s Report Cards and Transcripts State That He or She Has a Disability?

For students with disabilities, questions arise about whether the information conveyed by report cards and transcripts can include information about the students’ disabilities, including whether those students received special education and related services.

The issue is how do federal laws apply to statements on report cards and transcripts when these statements identify students as students with disabilities?

“The Letter”

A couple of years back, the Office for Civil Rights is the U.S. Department of Education issued guidance on the topic in a “Dear Colleague Letter.”  The Letter represents the U.S. Department of Education’s current thinking on a topic, but does not create or confer any rights on any person.  The Letter also does not impose any requirements beyond those in the applicable laws and regulations.

The Difference Between Report Cards and Transcripts

Report cards and transcripts convey information about students.  School districts issue report cards to parents to indicate their child’s progress or level of achievement in specific classes, course content, or curriculum.  These report cards are made available to parents, not to postsecondary institutions, potential employers, and others outside of the school district.  In contrast, a student’s transcript generally is intended to inform postsecondary institutions or prospective employers of a student’s academic credentials and achievements.  Accordingly, there is an expectation that a student’s transcript could be shared with persons other than the student and the student’s parents.

What are the Rules for Report Cards and Transcripts?

Report Cards

Under federal disability discrimination laws, the general principle is that report cards may contain information about a student’s disability, including whether that student received special education or related services, as long as the report card informs parents about their child’s progress or level of achievement in specific classes, course content, or curriculum, consistent with the underlying purpose of a report card.

Transcripts

However, transcripts may not contain information disclosing students’ disabilities.  Transcripts are provided to persons other than the student and the student’s parents to convey information about a student’s academic credentials and achievements.  Information about a student’s disability, including whether that student received special education or related services due to having a disability, is not information about a student’s academic credentials and achievements.  Therefore, transcripts may not provide information on a student’s disability.


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Michael Dorfman

Written on January 6, 2014 by:

Michael R. Dorfman is an attorney and partner at Nykanen Dorfman, PLLC in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  In his special education law practice, Michael represents students and their families when there is a conflict with the school district or when an appropriate education is not being provided.
  • Shawn Hartwell

    I would have never known the rules surrounding the two different educational documents. It seems only right that one’s disability shouldn’t be made, more or less, publicly obtainable through the pretenses of, “I’m thinking of hiring this person,” and I’m glad law has stepped in.

    I wonder what my transcripts say up here in Canada, considering I have ADD/ADHD(and some other…well…I’m not too sure what they are exactly.)

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