NewsLocal News


Parents' rights 'murky' when it comes to school incidents

Recent Arizona incident brings up legal questions
School classroom
Posted at 5:00 PM, May 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-05-01 19:32:09-04

DENVER — The parents of a 15-month-old Arizona girl are demanding answers after their child came home from daycare covered in bite marks.

The parents say Sunrise Preschool has, thus far, refused to let them review surveillance video.

"One bite mark, she'd be screaming bloody murder,” said Rocio Enriquez, Mila’s mother. “That's how bad it was. So, if someone heard her scream, where was management?"

You may think you have a right to see all the evidence related to your children in situations like this, but experts say it’s a murky area of the law.

“It’s very hard to get school records sometimes,” said Dan Recht, a trial lawyer at Recht Kornfeld in Denver.

The laws that protect schools are similar to HIPPA laws that shield patient privacy when it comes to medical issues.

These are called FERPA laws, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.

But FERPA protects students, which sometimes comes at the expense of other students.

“And that is very stressful for a parent,” said Tami Curry whose 8-year-old son attends Canyon Creek Elementary in the Cherry Creek School District.

Curry is going through a similar experience.

"I emailed the school and said, 'I would like to see the footage of him being dragged,'" Curry said.

She claims her son was dragged through the cafeteria by two staff members.

She's seen the video of the incident, but the school won't let her see the video of what led up to the dragging.

"Their story was that he pushed one of the para's prior to coming inside the building,” Curry said. “So, I asked, ‘Where's that at?' I know they have surveillance."

Recht said this is not uncommon.

"Our firm, for example, battles very often with school districts," Recht said.

Recht says when it comes to parental access to evidence and school records, student privacy laws give schools extreme leeway when choosing what to disclose.

"The law is murky and gray with regard to how long they can restrict access, whether they can restrict access, at what point they have to give access," Recht said. “In this particular case, it appears the school is just protecting its own butt, frankly. It is circling the wagons because there are alleged liability concerns.”

Denver7 reached out to Cherry Creek Schools. We have not yet heard back.

In Mila’s case, her parents have also filed a police report. Recht says when cases become criminal, parents can gain access to new evidence and additional information.

“We don’t know what to think because we don’t know the true answer,” said Rylee Umsted, Mila’s father. “But there’s a video out there that tells the truth.”

Curry says it's been a full-time job trying to hunt down all the facts.

"I think this is really important information for parents to know they don't have complete access,” Recht said.