By Emily Costello/Staff Writer
Thu Dec 10, 2009, 06:18 AM EST
BURLINGTON - Lexington Public Schools have re-examined how they treat records related to child abuse or neglect, after a couple brought pressure on the school district for keeping some of their son’s records from them.
In April, the school district filed a report with the state’s Department of Children and Families about Jean and Michael Morrisey’s son, who was in the eighth grade at the time. The state’s mandated reporter statute requires school officials to file such reports when they have concerns about abuse or neglect.
The state agency “screened out” the report, meaning it chose not to pursue a detailed investigation.
The Morriseys requested to see the records filed by the school, including the notes compiled by a child protection team made up of school administrators and staff members, and were repeatedly turned down by the district.
Lexington Superintendent Paul Ash said that although student records are always accessible to parents in the school system, the requirement to release the mandated reporter records was less clear-cut.
The district appealed to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for a recommendation in the matter. It recommended that the records be released once the child protection agency concludes an investigation or decides not to investigate.
Ash said this week he felt the DESE recommendation was well reasoned and that he has since turned all of the Morriseys’ son’s records over to his father. He said the district would comply with similar requests from other parents, if any came forward.
Michael Morrisey referred questions about the case to Mary Jean, founder of Children First Advocacy in Leominster, who helped the family during their dealings with Lexington Public Schools.
Jean alleges that the school filed paperwork with the state Department of Children and Families to create a “reversal of positions” — similar to filing a counter lawsuit.