LEA Has the Right to Seek Copies of Juvenile Court Records

Frequently, when a student is involved in the California juvenile dependency or delinquency courts the student’s LEA is unaware of the nature of the student’s involvement and not privy to information that is pertinent to the student’s educational success.  LEA’s are often unaware that they have the right to petition a juvenile court to release copies of juvenile court records for a student within their jurisdiction. This right is often unexplored because LEA’s assume that the only persons with a legal right to receive information regarding juvenile cases are the parent or legal guardian of the minor, or court related personnel such as a District Attorney, Public Defender or court appointed counsel for the student.  However, Welfare and Institution Code Section 827 allows a school district’s superintendent or designee to petition the juvenile court to disclose the student’s juvenile court file where good cause exists.

Good Cause

The burden is on the LEA to prove that there is good cause for the juvenile court to order the disclosure of juvenile court records to the LEA. The LEA must establish that the disclosure is necessary for the rehabilitation of the student, the safety of protecting other students and staff, or to lessen the potential for drug use, violence, or other forms of delinquency, and child abuse.

Procedures for Seeking Disclosure

The process of petitioning the court to release the student’s records requires that formal motions are made to the court. The child and his/her parents are afforded due process and must be served, along with other interested parties such as the Department of Children and Family Services, with a copy of all documents filed with the court.

The process may require the LEA to appear before the court, as the child, his/her parents, Department of Children and Family Services, Department of Probation, and all agencies involved in the matter have a right to oppose the LEA’s request and can ask the court to set a date to hear arguments on the LEA’s request. The juvenile court judge then has the option to review the LEA’s motion and grant the LEA’s request, deny the LEA’s request, or set a hearing on the request.

Confidentiality of Records

If the court grants the LEA’s request the LEA is responsible for ensuring the proper use and confidentiality of the records. The LEA must ensure that the court records are maintained in a confidential file. Any records or information pertaining to the records received by the LEA must remain confidential and can only be disclosed/used for the limited purpose of rehabilitating the student and protecting students and staff. The LEA cannot further disseminate the records or information contained in the records to teachers, staff, and administrators except when necessary for rehabilitating the student and protecting students and staff or when necessary for communication with the student, his or her parents or guardians, law enforcement personnel, and the student's probation officer if necessary to effectuate the student's rehabilitation or to protect students and staff.

Any intentional failure of the LEA and it’s agents to protect the student’s confidentiality is a misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500).

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