A Capehart Scatchard Blog

N.J. Supreme Court Rules on Student Records Issue – Part 2

Editor: Sanmathi (Sanu) Dev, Esq.

In last week’s article, we discussed the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in L.R. v. Camden City Public School District, focusing on the Court’s decision to extend the protections for student records under the New Jersey Pupil Records Act (“NJPRA”) to include redacted records.

In its decision in L.R., the Court also affirmed the Appellate Division’s holding that a requestor could gain access to student records if they fell within one of the categories of “authorized” individuals and entities identified in N.J.A.C. 6A:32-7.5(e)(1) through (16). Specifically, the Appellate Division suggested, that the requestors could seek access to the requested records by means of a court order, as N.J.A.C. 6A:32-7.5(e)(15) provides, and also that either requestor might qualify as a “bona fide researcher” under N.J.A.C. 6A:32-7.5(e)(16). The Appellate Division remanded the matters for a determination of whether the requestors could establish a right of access under these two regulations.

The six members of the Court who participated in this matter agreed upon the following non-exclusive factors to be applied when a requestor seeks a “court order” pursuant to N.J.A.C. 6A:32-7.5(e)(15): (1) the type of student record requested; (2) the information that the student record contains; (3) the potential or harm in any subsequent nonconsensual disclosure of the student record; (4) the injury from disclosure to the relationship between the educational agency and the student and his or her parents or guardians; (5) the extent to which disclosure will impede the educational agency’s functions by discouraging candid disclosure of information regarding students; (6) the effect disclosure may have upon persons who have provided such information; (7) the extent to which agency self-evaluation, program improvement, or other determinations will be chilled by disclosure; (8) the adequacy of safeguards to prevent unauthorized disclosure; (9) the degree of need for access to the student records; and (10) whether there is an express statutory or regulatory mandate, articulated public policy, or other recognized public interest militating toward access.

In summary, although the Court in L.R. extended further protections to student records under NJPRA, it also provided that a requestor may still gain access to those records if they can show that they qualify as a “bona fide researcher” or obtain a court order satisfying the Court’s factor test showing that the requestor’s interest in obtaining the student records outweigh a School District’s interest in protecting the privacy of its students.

Questions regarding this article may be sent to Publications@Capehart.com.


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