What should I know about the rights and responsibilities of parents and students in schools?

Authored By: GeorgiaLegalAid.org
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Rights in School

Rights and responsibilities of parents and students in Georgia schools


What are my rights and responsibilities with school attendance?

Under Georgia law, every child has the right to attend school. Children between the ages of six and sixteen must go to school. Students can attend:

  • Public school.

  • Homeschool. Parents have the right to homeschool their child. Home school programs must meet certain requirements, including:

    • Keep regular attendance records, and 

    • Follow a similar curriculum to public school. Home schools must at least teach reading, language arts, math, social studies, and science.

    • Parents must notify the school district every year, and 

    • Parents must give an annual progress assessment report.

  • Private school.


Parents are responsible for making sure their child actually goes to school. If children miss more than five days of school without an excuse, they are truant. Their parents may face legal action for educational neglect. 


Children over sixteen may drop out of school, but they must have the written permission of their parent or legal guardian.

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What are my rights and responsibilities with student records?

School records are confidential. Parents have the right to: 

  • see their own children’s records if the child is under 18. Noncustodial parents or guardians also have the right to inspect their child’s records.

  • allow the release of those records to their family doctors. 

  • ask that the record be corrected if they are not correct.


Once a student is eighteen, they have the right to see their own school records.


A school must respond to a request for education records within 45 days.


In most cases, parents (or students 18 or over) must give the school written permission to release their records to anyone else. However, the school may give out a student’s school records in some cases, including:

  • To school officials who have legitimate educational interests,

  • To another school where the student is going to enroll,

  • To local or state authorities,

  • To anyone if you have allowed the school to release the information in a school directory. 

    • You have the right to opt out of any school directory or public release of information.

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What are my rights and responsibilities if my student is an immigrant?

All children have the right to a free K-12 public education. That includes all immigrant students. Undocumented children cannot be denied their right to a free public education.


You do not have to give any proof of citizenship to enroll your child in public school, including:

  • Green card,

  • Visa,

  • Passport,

  • Alien registration number,

  • Social security number.


It is illegal for a school to ask for proof of citizenship. If a school asks or refuses a student because of citizenship status, contact the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education or the ACLU.


Students cannot be denied admission to a public school because they have limited English skills. A school must provide language instruction. 

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What are a student’s rights to be free from discrimination at school?

Students have the right to be free from discrimination at school. They cannot be discriminated against because of their:

  • Race,

  • Color,

  • National Origin,

  • Sex,

  • Disability, or 

  • Immigration status.


If the school discriminates against your child, you have the right to file a complaint. File with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education.

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What are a student’s rights to free speech and religion?

Public schools cannot promote or put down any one religion or religion in general. 


However, as long as a student is not distracting other students, they have the right to:

  • Pray at school,

  • Read religious books,

  • Wear religious clothing,

  • Talk about their faith,

  • Organize religious clubs,

  • Observe religious holidays.


Public school students have the same rights to free speech as anyone else, as long as it:

  • Does not substantially disrupt the functioning of the school, or 

  • Takes place outside of school.


Exercising free speech rights, even if school administrators don’t approve of what they are saying.


Schools are allowed to establish codes of conduct. These codes including dress codes. Students still have the right to express themselves. Schools cannot use this codes to target girls, people of color, transgender and gender non-conforming students.

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What are my rights to public school if my family is homeless?

Homeless children, including those who are homeless because of a natural disaster, have rights under federal law. A school must enroll such a child right away even if the student does not have the papers he or she would normally need. The school must help the family get those records as well as records from the student’s last school. 


A homeless student has the right to:

  • stay in the school they last attended before losing their home or 

  • immediately enroll in a school to where they are relocated. 


The school district must: 

  • provide transportation even if the child moves to a different city, county, or district,

  • make its programs and services available to homeless children. Each school district must have a coordinator to tell families their rights and help them get the services they need.

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What can I do if a school has violated my rights as a parent or my student’s rights?


Student Record Rights

If your school gets federal education funding, then you are covered under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) law. If the school violates your student record rights, you can file a written complaint with the Family Policy Compliance Office. You must file the complaint within 180 days of the violation.


If your child’s school does not get federal funding, you still have a right to student records under Georgia law. If your rights are violated, contact your school, local school board, or the Georgia Department of Education.


Discrimination Rights

File a claim with the Office of Civil Rights of the U.S. Department of Education if you think your child has been discriminated against because of:

  • Race,

  • Color,

  • National Origin,

  • Sex,

  • Disability, or 

  • Immigration status.


File the complaint within 180 days of the discrimination.


First Amendment Rights

If your student’s first amendment rights are violated by the school, you may have a legal claim against the school. Contact an attorney to talk about your options.

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Last Review and Update: Apr 07, 2020
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