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Liberty Tree Academy Students Privacy Matters

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To Whom it May Concern,

We, the undersigned, have recently been made aware that the Liberty Tree Academy (LTA) Board required Dr. Killingsworth to send them our child(ren)’s updated IEPs and 504 plans without our consent as a condition of his employment.

In light of this, I do not grant permission to any individual (e.g., LTA Board, legal counsel, teacher, or any other unauthorized individual) to review, gain access to, or discuss anything related to my student’s Protected Health Information or any other sensitive information (e.g., progress notes, discipline notes, grades, 504s, IEPs, discipline, mental health records, mental health screening or assessments, Behavioral Intervention Plans, threat assessments, physical health records, safety plans, etc.) without prior written authorization or consent by me. This also includes redacted Personally Identifiable Information (PII), because the content (in the body of the document) could show information that would reveal my student’s identity. Unless a Release of Information (ROI) form is signed, no one is authorized to review my student’s sensitive information (redacted or not). Individuals who review my student’s sensitive information must have privilege consent and be credentialed, trained, authorized, and/or custodians. Before my student’s behavior, IEP, and/or 504 records can be reviewed, I must first sign an ROI with the following information included:

  • First and last name of person reviewing the information
  • Training and credentials of the individual reviewing the sensitive information
  • Detailed rationale regarding why my student’s sensitive information is being reviewed
  • Specific information that will be reviewed
  • Start and end date of the review

With this breach in trust, we, the undersigned, call for the current LTA board to resign immediately and be replaced with an elected board who is properly trained and understands the seriousness of FERPA, HIPPA, and ethics laws.

Student Confidentiality and Privacy

Professionals have a legal (FERPA, HIPAA, etc.) and ethical responsibility to protect students’ confidentiality and privacy. Protecting students’ sensitive information (e.g., 504s, IEPs, discipline, mental health screening or assessments, Behavioral Intervention Plans, threat assessments, physical screening, safety plans, or any other private information) should be a major priority for authorized school professionals. It is vital that authorized school professionals constantly strive to protect the confidentiality and privacy of students. Legal and ethical authorities emphasize that various legal regulations and ethical codes related to confidentiality for behavioral health information:

The Family Education Privacy Act (FERPA) states. “Schools must have written permission from the parent or eligible student in order to release any information from a student's education record (34 CFR § 99.31).

Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA): Although the school systems are legally mandate to follow FERPA, there are times that HIPAA legal regulations could apply. For instance, the school counselor or Dean might have contact with mental health providers, which involves HIPAA. HIPAA requires a Release of Information (ROI) to obtain clinical data. The form has a place to disclose who is receiving the form within the school. With that said, HIPAA release forms are given to individuals so they have full power over choosing who may access their health information. The person or parent/guardian is required to sign an ROI to allow individuals to see his or her medical records.

For counselors or credentialed behavioral health providers, they are bound to follow ethical codes from major behavioral health organizational bodies. For instance,

Disclose information only with appropriate consent or with sound legal or ethical justification.”—ACA

Professionals shall protect the confidentiality of any information received when counseling minor clients or adult clients who lack the capacity to provide voluntary informed consent, regardless of the medium, in accordance with federal and state laws, and organization policies and procedures.” ---NAADAC

Counselors shall not release the results of tests and assessments without prior written consent.”— NBCC

“It is the school counselors’ responsibility to fully respect the right to privacy of those with whom they enter a counseling relationship and to provide an atmosphere of trust and confidence (Lazovsky, 2008; ASCA, 2022)”.

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