| Volunteer Resources | Legal | Information Sharing – Educational
Educational information and Child Welfare case information are both protected under law. So, how do we navigate these laws to maximize the protection of youth?
Educators must comply with federal and state law, including FERPA (Family Educational and Privacy Rights Act of 1974). Generally, FERPA requires that schools keep educational information confidential unless there is a clear exception (such as parental consent, or a court order).
May CASA volunteers talk with Teachers or School staff?
Yes, when complying with your court order. Generally, the court will appoint a CASA volunteer and issue an order of appointment that defines the roles and responsibilities of the CASA and includes a specific order authorizing access to certain records.
Teachers and school staff talking to CASA
When the court assigns the CASA volunteer to represent the interests of a child, the CASA must obtain a clear, first-hand understanding of the situation and needs of the child and make best interests recommendations to the court. See Welf & Inst. Code 326.5 and Rule of Court 5.662, and 42 U.S.C 5106a(b)(2)(B)(xiii)(II). Therefore, if the CASA volunteer is acting within the scope of his or her duty, the CASA may talk to teachers and school staff.
CASA talking to teachers and school staff
CASA volunteers must comply with the orders of the court, and court rules. Thus, absent a court order authorizing further disclosure, the CASA must not disclose confidential case information to anyone other than the court, the parties, the attorneys for the parties in the dependency case, or to CASA staff. See California Rule of Court Rule 5.655(m).
Thus, the CASA must take care to guard the confidential issues and simply gather information to report to the court, and form his or her best interest recommendations. If the CASA feels that it would be in the best interests of the youth to share more information with the teacher, the CASA should seek direction from the court.
Records – CASA volunteers have a Court Order
The CASA volunteer should have an order of appointment that includes a specific court order authorizing access to certain records. Educational records will almost always be included in this order. This specific “court order” allowing access to educational records complies with FERPA and thus FERPA will not act as a barrier. However, the school may delay providing the records to provide reasonable notice to the parents. See. Welf. & Inst. Code § 107; 20 U.S.C. s. 1232g(b)(1)(J); 34 C.F.R. s. 99.31(a)(9).