• Health and Well-Being
  • Report
  • Higher Ed

When to Alert Parents of Self-Harming Students

Heather Salko, Esq.
October 2023

Why Read This

When students experience significant mental health issues impacting their well-being, college administrators often struggle with how or whether to discuss those issues 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. However, disclosure of student mental health issues is allowed under exceptions to FERPA. This report explains how to document communication to parents and other risk management steps to ensure students receive timely care and treatment for their 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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