In the course of performing their duties, teachers must adhere to certain standards of behavior and a large number of rules in order to maintain their career. Among these rules are particular regulations relating to the maintenance of student confidentiality. The student-teacher relationship is important on various levels. There is, of course, the purely educational element. But as many teachers we work with inform us, they become privy to a great deal of information about their students that can be—and should be—considered confidential. And the law agrees. If a teacher is accused of sharing information that should be kept confidential, it can put their license at risk of revocation—and along with the license will pass away the career they have worked so hard to achieve.
Among the types of information that are considered confidential (to varying degrees of strictness) are disciplinary records, any medical records to which the teacher has access, and any information found in a student’s educational record that the teacher is not given express permission to reveal by either the student or (while the student is a minor) the student’s parents.
The exceptions to this confidentiality are few, and limited. For one thing, if a teacher becomes aware that a student is subject to some form of danger, including abuse, threat of death by someone else, or threat of suicide, the teacher is in fact required by law to report it, and they will therefore not find themselves subject to loss of their license for doing so. Moreover, the Federal Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which applies to any educational facility receiving federal funds, permits personnel that a school district in Texas deems to have a “legitimate educational interest” to access a student’s educational record without requiring prior consent by a parent. Nor does the district need consent to release the disciplinary record of a student to someone having a legitimate educational interest in that student where the student’s behavior poses “a significant risk to the safety or well-being of that student, other students, or other members of the school community.”
Therefore, as soon as a teacher becomes aware that a complaint has been registered with the Texas Education Agency, they should contact an experienced professional license defense attorney like us here at BERTOLINO LLP. We provide aggressive advocacy for teachers who are facing disciplinary action before the Agency. We have consistently won significant cases for teachers dealing with issues that could jeopardize their ability to work. We know how to build a strong case to protect your license—and your livelihood.