Revised act allows parental notification of law violation

By Jennifer Coots
October 19, 2000

by Jennifer Coots
staff writer

Once upon a time, students of colleges and universities across the country could party without worry of their parents being notified if they got caught. There was little school officials could do to get parents involved. The Buckley Amendment previously limited the information about a student’s academic record that could be released without the student’s consent.

Thanks to recent regulations passed by the U.S. Department of Education, school officials can notify the parents of any student under the age of 21 caught drinking or using a controlled substance. Previously, an educational institution could only notify the parents of students under the age of 18.

Proposed on June 1, 1999, and coming into effect a year later, the recent changes to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act allow parental notification for any violation of a federal, state or local law.

Originally, the privacy act was enacted by Congress to prevent student educational records from being released. Instead of just student privacy, the focus has expanded to minimizing underage drinking, drug use and crime.

Although the college does not have to tell the student when parents are alerted, it must keep record of the account and show it upon request of the student. The rule also states that educational institutions are allowed to create their own measures when choosing to tell parents. Colleges are not required to hold disciplinary hearings prior to informing parents either.

The main concern on the minds of many is whether Cabrini is going to enforce this rule. Not necessarily, according to the dean of students, Dr. Laura Valente.

“We are happy that we have the freedom to make that choice. I don’t know that we’ll do it in every case, but we’ll use our best judgement and if we feel we need to tell the parent about it for a specific reason, then we will.”

Even though a phone call home is not going to be standard procedure, the thought of the possible notification to parents is a frightening and invasive aspect for many students. “It’s a violation of your privacy,” according to senior Leigh Ann Tenore. “When you’re 18 years of age, your parents are not legally responsible for you.”

First year student Shannon Molony agrees. “I don’t think it’s fair because the student is over the age of 18 and the officials should leave the student to handle their own responsibilities.”

Students over 18 may be legally responsible for their actions, but most are still financially dependent on their parents. Sophomore and commuter Quentin Wilbraham regularly spends his weekends on campus.

“It’s okay to tell the parent, but they [school officials] should inform the student as well. The parent pays for the education so they have a right to know,” Wilbraham continues. “If I was paying for my child’s schooling, I certainly would want to know.”

While most parents want to know if their child is in trouble, some students exploring their new freedom during college drink and use drugs on university and college campuses.

Is there really a benefit in notifying parents, especially when there is danger of serious problems occurring between the parents and child as a result?

“I don’t think that in most cases if a parent found out that their child was drinking at college that their answer would be to disown their son or daughter,” Valente said. “I give parents a lot more credit than that. In most cases they would try and be helpful to have their child face what potential problems they might have.”

According to the Cabrini Department of Public Safety Policies and Procedures handbook, during the years of 1997 and 1998 no drug or liquor violations occurred. However, in 1999, eight accounts of drug abuse violations and 65 alcohol violations were reported.

Parental notification of parents by a college applies not just to drug and alcohol violations but also to other violations of a college’s code of conduct as well as to criminal offenses occurring on campus.

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Jennifer Coots

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