Thursday, May 26, 2005

Threatening to take away Federal Funding wakes up State Officials

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Bay State ripped as divorced dad wins bid for school info
By Ann E. DonlanWednesday, May 18, 2005 - Updated: 09:54 AM EST

U.S. education officials have flunked Massachusetts for requiring divorced parents to wage an expensive battle for access to their child's school records, after a crusading Milford father successfully challenged a flawed 7-year-old state law.

``This is the big stick,'' Dr. Henry Fassler, a 62-year-old father, said of the recent U.S. Department of Education warning to Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. ``The commonwealth and every school district in Massachusetts is in violation of federal law, and has been for years.''
Bay State parents who live apart from their children after divorce have been thwarted in their efforts to seek public school records, including report cards, under a state law that must be scrapped unless the state wants to risk losing millions in education aid.

``However laudable state law may be in its desire to protect children and custodial parents,'' states a May 6 letter to Driscoll from LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office, non-custodial parents cannot be denied access to school records unless there is evidence those ``rights have been specifically revoked.''

Fassler, a dentist, said he moved to Milford just to be near his 17-year-old daughter, Lindsey, a high school junior. He never had problems accessing her records until he tried to get a copy of his daughter's schedule last year from a school official, who initially said he could not provide it under a state law the district was following after receiving training from the state. He did his homework and filed a detailed complaint in October.

Driscoll told the Herald that the DOE will work with lawmakers to change the law and will notify superintendents this week of the conflict. ``We're in agreement with Dr. Fassler that this needs to be fixed,'' said Driscoll, who added that he doubted that the law ``came up very often . . . on the ground.''

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