• Health and Well-Being
  • Report
  • Higher Ed

When to Alert Parents of Self-Harming Students

Heather Salko, Esq.
March 2021

Why Read This

When students experience significant mental health issues that impact their education or overall well-being, college administrators may be reluctant to discuss those issues — and the student's needs — with parents due to the privacy protections afforded students and their records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), a federal privacy law. This report explains when disclosure of these health issues, and similar situations, is allowed under exceptions to FERPA, as well as how to document communication to parents. In addition, you’ll learn additional risk management steps to ensure students receive timely care and treatment for mental health and related issues.

Key Takeaways

  • General trends indicate an increase in reported student mental health issues on campus.
  • In most circumstances, the law allows parental notification of student information when that disclosure is motivated by a reasonable belief that it will help the student.
  • Decisions regarding disclosure should not be made lightly nor without consultation.
  • The best practice is to encourage voluntary disclosures between students and parents whenever possible.

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