Dealing with Parents or Others Seeking Information

The most common situation GTAs encounter is a parent who is upset about a grade. Advise the parent that, pursuant to federal law (FERPA), you may only discuss a student's grade with the parent if the son or daughter consents in writing (a brief note will do) to your discussion of his/her academics. Under the FERPA  (PDF, 163 KB) regulations, written consent must: "(1) Specify the records that may be disclosed; (2) State the purpose of the disclosure; and (3) Identify the party or class of parties to whom the disclosure may be made." 34 C.F.R. § 99.30(b)(1)-(3).

Once you have consent or have confirmation from the Registrar that the student is listed as a dependent on the parent's tax return, you may discuss the student's situation with the parent:

  1. Explain your course requirements and expectations (as explained in Syllabus and Class Policies).
  2. Explain your evaluation and grading methodology.
  3. Explain why the student's work did not meet your standards for a higher grade.

If the parent is still irate, state (politely) that you don't believe the matter can be resolved in this meeting, and refer the parent to the Department Chair or the University Attorney's office. (You do not have to "win" an argument with the parent, and you should not continue to participate in a conversation in which you are being attacked, insulted, or demeaned.)

Sometimes parents will mention that they are seeking advice from an attorney. At this point you should politely terminate the conversation and refer the parent to the University Attorney.