Child Custody Issues
Under the compulsory attendance laws, parents must send their children to school, and schools stand in loco parentis as regards discipline, supervision, and custody issues. School personnel have an obligation to exercise due care in guarding the health, safety, and welfare of students enrolled in our schools. Children must not be released to persons who are not their parents or legal guardians.
Custody Issues and Parental Rights
Divorced parents and the courts will establish the terms and conditions of custody of the children. There is an almost unlimited number of variations but custody terms will generally fall into one of the three following general categories.
Parents share in the physical custody of the children as defined by some agreed upon schedule. This is the most common category and the majority of custody agreements are of this type.
Primary Physical Custody with Visitation Rights
Only one parent has physical custody of the child; however, the other parent is guaranteed visits with the child at certain times.
Only one parent has physical custody and the other parent cannot visit, or sometimes even see, the child.
These last two types of custody arrangements are the ones which cause the most problems for schools due to parental disputes over visitation. Sometimes kidnapping from school grounds can result. In any of these custody arrangements, both parents retain full parental rights regarding access to school records, grades, progress reports, etc. If parental rights have been legally waived, then parents do not have the right to records.
School responsibilities usually become an issue only when there is a dispute between divorced parents over the terms of custody or over their obligations under the divorce decree. Guidelines are as follows:
- Avoid taking sides in domestic disputes.
- Request a copy of the divorce decree which specifies child custody terms.
- If a parent shows up at the school with a temporary custody order or a temporary restraining order, call APS Police, 243-7712, or Student Support Services, 342-7201.
Legal Names on School Records and Name Changes
Student records should be maintained under the correct legal name. In a remarriage situation, the student's records should carry the family name of the natural father unless the child has been legally adopted by the new father or the child has legally changed his/her name after reaching the age of 14.
HSD Custody of Children
Occasionally it becomes necessary for the Child Protective Services unit for the Human Services Department to assume legal and/or physical custody of a child. This is usually a temporary situation but may range from days to years in duration. The agency should provide the school with written documentation of their legal authority to access records.
NSBA/NEPN Classification: KBBA
Revised: May 1995
Revised: April 1996
Revised: May 1997