To Keep, or Not to Keep!

To Keep, or Not to Keep!
Businesswoman hands working in Stacks of paper files for searching information on work desk in office, business report papers.

To Keep, or Not to Keep! Let’s Talk About Retention of Records!

September 2023 | Issue #41

Old boxes of student records are stacked like Lego towers in the warehouse and each year, more boxes arrive, and storage becomes a real challenge. New students start school each year, creating more records, but other students leave permanently—so why do we have to keep those records? The warehouse manager insists all those old, closed student files must be destroyed. However, before donning protective goggles and starting up the industrial shredder, consider the federal and state laws governing student records retention, notice of proposed destruction, and even the legal requirement that some records must be stored forever! In California, student records fall into three categories:

  1. Mandatory Permanent Pupil Records;
  2. Mandatory Interim Pupil Records;
  3. Permitted Pupil Records.

Mandatory Permanent Pupil Records must be stored permanently—not necessarily as paper documents in a file folder or box, because California law permits electronic storage—but a school district or independent charter school LEA must keep this type of record for all students in perpetuity (forever) (5 CCR § 432(b)(1)).

  1. “Mandatory Permanent Pupil Records” are those records which the schools have been directed to compile by California statute . . . Each school district shall maintain indefinitely all mandatory permanent pupil records or an exact copy thereof for every pupil who was enrolled in a school program within said district. Such records shall include the following:
    1. Legal name of pupil.
    2. Date of birth.
    3. Method of verification of birth date.
    4. Sex of pupil.
    5. Place of birth.
    6. Name and address of parent of minor pupil.
      1. Address of minor pupil if different than the above.
      2. An annual verification of the name and address of the parent and the residence of the pupil.
    7. Entering and leaving date of each school year and for any summer session or other extra session.
    8. Subjects taken during each year, half-year, summer session, or quarter.
    9. If marks or credits are given, the mark or number of credits toward graduation allowed for work taken.
    10. Verification of or exemption from required immunizations.
    11. Date of high school graduation or equivalent.

    Mandatory Interim Pupil Records, which include special education records, are maintained for a certain period of time and then destroyed per California statute or regulation (5 CCR § 432(b)(2)). Special education records, as with other interim pupil records, can be re-classified as Class III Disposable Records after a period of three years following the student’s departure from the district or independent charter school LEA (5 CCR § § 16025, 16026 and 16027), and destroyed after notice to the parent/guardian (34 CFR § 300.624).

  2. “Mandatory Interim Pupil Records” are those records that schools are required to compile and maintain for stipulated periods of time and are then destroyed as per California statute or regulation. Such records include:
    1. A log or record identifying those persons (except authorized school personnel) or organizations requesting or receiving information from the record. The log or record shall be accessible only to the legal parent or guardian or the eligible pupil, or a dependent adult pupil, or an adult pupil, or the custodian of records.
    2. Health information, including Child Health Developmental Disabilities Prevention Program verification or waiver.
    3. Participation in special education programs, including required tests, case studies, authorizations, and actions necessary to establish eligibility for admission or discharge.
    4. Language training records.
    5. Progress slips and/or notices as required by Education Code Sections 49066 and 49067.
    6. Parental restrictions regarding access to directory information or related stipulations.
    7. Parent or adult pupil rejoinders to challenged records and to disciplinary action.
    8. Parental authorizations or prohibitions of pupil participation in specific programs.
    9. Results of standardized tests administered within the preceding three years.
    10. The third category of records is Permitted Pupil Records, which covers things the district or independent charter LEA may keep related to a student (5 CCR § 432(b)(3)). Not every scrap of paper constitutes a student record that must be kept for any period of time. Permitted Records, also referred to as Optional Records, are “any record worthy of temporary preservation” and may be reclassified as Class III Disposable and destroyed (5 CCR § 16024).

  3. “Permitted Records” are those records that districts may maintain for appropriate educational purposes. Such records may include:
    1. Objective counselor and/or teacher ratings.
    2. Standardized test results older than three years.
    3. Routine discipline data.
    4. Verified reports of relevant behavioral patterns.
    5. All disciplinary notices.
    6. Attendance records not covered in the Administrative Code Section 400.

Now that we know what we must keep and what we can eventually shred, there is another essential thing to consider: notice to the parent/guardian and/or adult student. Before the destruction of any special education, optional, or reclassified disposable records can occur, the district or independent charter school LEA must inform parents when personally identifiable student information is no longer needed, and the district/charter school LEA seeks to destroy the stored records. The IDEA states in 34 CFR § 300.624: 300.624 - Destruction of Information.

  1. The public agency must inform parents when personally identifiable information collected, maintained, or used under this part is no longer needed to provide educational services to the child.
  2. The information must be destroyed at the request of the parents. However, a permanent record of the student’s name, address, and phone number, his or her grades, attendance record, classes attended, grade level completed, and year completed may be maintained without time limitation.