CPI Student Records Confidentiality
A new provision was added this year to the law that governs CPI students. NEW Iowa Code section 299A.11 states:
Notwithstanding any provision of law or rule to the contrary, personal information in records regarding a child receiving competent private instruction pursuant to this chapter, which are maintained, created, collected, or assembled by or for a state agency, shall be kept confidential in the same manner as personal information in student records maintained, created, collected, or assembled by or for a school corporation or educational institution in accordance with section 22.7, subsection 1. [Section 22.7(1) requires that personal information regarding students be kept confidential as an exception to the Open Records Law.] New section 299A.11 gives CPI students and their families the same state privacy protection as regularly enrolled students and their families.
Some CPI families are providing their resident school districts a courtesy notice to remind the districts that personal information about their children must be kept confidential even if the district receives no "opt out" form. The courtesy notice is quite correct. Under the new state law, all personal information of CPI students who are not dually enrolled and/or enrolled in a Home School Assistance Program (HSAP) is to be protected.
State law covers all CPI students because a Form A (Report of CPI) must be filed on behalf of all such students of compulsory attendance age. Form A must be maintained by the resident district, which makes every Form A a public document. (The records a district may have regarding a child who receives CPI might also include more specific records for those who are dually enrolled and/or enrolled in a Home School Assistance Program if a HSAP is provided by the district.) Under state law (Office of Attorney General Opinion No. 80-6-8), personal information about a student excludes only the student's name and address. Therefore, if a request is made for copies of the Form As in the care of a district, the request must be granted with the personal information (everything except student's name and address) having been first expunged either with white-out or by blackening the personal information. If such a request is made, districts are also urged to first notify the affected student's family and to delay for a few weeks complying with the request; this will give a family a chance to try to challenge the request in court. Any such court challenge will not be against the DISTRICT but will be against the party requesting the information. Nothing in the law requires a district to comply immediately with a request for student information, especially if the request comes from a party with whom the district is not familiar.
On the other hand, the provisions of FERPA (the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act) cover only those CPI students who are dually enrolled with the district or who are enrolled in the district's HSAP (if the district operates an assistance program). Under FERPA, non-confidential information ("directory information") must be designated by each district and may include a student's name, address, telephone listing, email address, date of birth, grade level, and participation in activities and sports, to name the most pertinent ones. And the annual FERPA notice and the separate notice about military recruiters must be sent to the parents/guardians of all regularly enrolled students and those CPI students who are dually enrolled and/or enrolled in a HSAP.
If a district receives an "opt out" form on behalf of a CPI student who is dually enrolled or enrolled in a HSAP, the district is accustomed to protecting that student's personal information. The courtesy notice that a district might get is a valid reminder that personal information about a CPI child must be kept confidential even if the district receives no "opt out" form.
Immunizations and CPI Students
A child who begins Competent Private Instruction (CPI, or home schooling) for the first time in Iowa (including children enrolled in a Home School Assistance Program) must submit proof of the required immunizations with Form A, Report of CPI, unless the parents or guardians file a doctor's statement or an affidavit of religious exemption as outlined in Iowa Code section 139A.8.
Failure to submit such proof without a doctor's statement or parental affidavit is a violation of compulsory attendance laws, and should be referred to the county attorney under truancy laws.
Immunizations are governed by the Iowa Department of Public Health. The following is an excerpt from DPH agency rule about the exemption for medical or religious reasons:
641-7.3(1) A medical exemption may be granted to an applicant when, in the opinion of a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant, the required immunizations would be injurious to the health and well-being of the applicant or any member of the applicant's family or household. A medical exemption may apply to a specific vaccine(s) or all required immunizations. A certificate of immunization exemption for medical reasons is valid only when signed by a physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. If, in the opinion of the physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant issuing the medical exemption, the exemption should be terminated or reviewed at a future date, an expiration date shall be recorded on the certificate of immunization exemption.
7.3(2) A religious exemption may be granted to an applicant if immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief. A certificate of immunization exemption for religious reasons shall be signed by the applicant or, if the applicant is a minor, by the parent or guardian or legally authorized representative and shall attest that immunization conflicts with a genuine and sincere religious belief and that the belief is in fact religious, and not based merely on philosophical, scientific, moral, personal, or medical opposition to immunizations. The certificate of immunization exemption for religious reasons is valid only when notarized. Religious exemptions shall become null and void during times of emergency as determined by the state board of health and declared by the director of public health.
Immunizations are governed by the Iowa Department of Public Health (DPH). Every year, starting in October, DPH auditors contact school districts to review immunization records. This does not present a Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) issue for districts. The DPH auditors are entitled to these records. There is no reason for district personnel to not cooperate fully with the DPH auditors.