Fla. court rules test an education record

FLORIDA ‘ A circuit court judge ruled in favor of a parent wishing to see her son’s test booklet and answer sheet for a statewide standardized exam in September. If the ruling stands up on appeal, other Florida parents could gain greater access to more of their children’s schoolwork not already clearly deemed as student records in state statutes.

Betty Shields had filed suit against the Florida Department of Education after her son, then a sophomore at Largo High School, failed the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, FCAT, which high school students must pass in order to graduate.

Shields argued that the test booklet and answer sheet should be considered student records and as a parent she should have access to them under state law. Shields had requested the material to find out what sections of the test her son was having trouble with.

The Florida Department of Education argued that the test booklets and answer sheet are not student records, and they were never intended to be viewed by parents.

Leon County Circuit Court Judge Janet Ferris ruled student records should include standardized test materials, along with a host of other materials.

‘In introducing an extensive list of types of information in the definition of student records, the Legislature did not intend that the examples provided stand as an exclusive list of all student records,’ she wrote.

Ferris also referred to Florida law that provides parents the right to view and challenge any incorrect information in student records.

‘The right to challenge such information is completely illusory unless the right to access is meaningful,’ she said.

Betty Shields died a few weeks after filing the suit, and the father of the student, Steven Cooper, was the plaintiff in court proceedings.

The Department of Education is planning to appeal.

Cooper v. State, 2002 WL 31486992 (Fla. Cir. Ct. Oct. 2, 2002)