One question that I have heard recently is whether schools can provide educational records to stepparents.  The answer is, “Sometimes.”

Different states have different rules, but almost all public schools and any private schools that receive federal funds are governed by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  The Department of Education’s regulations define a “parent” entitled to review records as including “a natural parent, a guardian, or an individual acting as a parent in the absence of a parent or a guardian.” The Department has interpreted that regulation as including stepparents who are present “on a day-to-day basis” when the child’s other biological parent “is absent from that home.”

In other words, if you are married to a parent who has custody of the child, and the non-custodial parent lives elsewhere, then FERPA allows you to access the child’s educational records.  Of course, part of staying in your lane means that you should exercise that right carefully and only as part of an agreement with your spouse.  Also, be respectful of the non-custodial parent’s concerns.  There are many good reasons for you to be involved in helping your children with school issues, but you need to be sure that you are not overstepping your bounds by getting involved.


Debbie Ausburn

Helping foster parents and stepparents learn how to be the person who is not supposed to be there.