Should a school know about the mental health of a student’s parents?

Does a school have to know how much the parents of a student earn or the real estate they own? Should you know if the father is unemployed or an alcoholic, or if the mother suffers from a physical or mental disability? This type of sensitive information appears in many divorce or separation decrees that come into the hands of schools so that they are aware of those extremes related to the educational field after a breakup; For example, who of the two members is responsible for picking up the child or who can decide on an extracurricular activity. However, these court decisions contain much more data than is strictly necessary because they arrive ‘raw’.

In other words, no one purifies those particularities of the couple’s private sphere, which may violate current regulations on data protection. Family lawyers and legal experts in data protection have to deal with this hot potato every day, convinced that both the Ministry of Education and the regional councils concerned and the courts themselves can arbitrate measures to protect the most sensitive information from third parties. . “And stick to the pronouncements that affect only the school environment,” they add.

“The schools have no choice but to receive these sentences in full because there are regulatory aspects about parental authority or custody that they must take into account. What is the problem? That parents do not ask for, or do not give them , partial testimonies or certifications of those extremes that are indeed of interest to the school, so that only that is known”, explains Alfonso Pacheco, an expert lawyer in data protection who advises schools on this matter. Pacheco also recalls that the ministries of all the autonomous communities contemplate in their protocols the requirement of the full text of the sentence. “With access to the full resolution, the school is being made aware of information that affects the right to privacy of parents and, of course, their right to data protection.”

These data are restricted to certain people, such as the legal advisor of the center, the director or the student’s tutor, who have the legal obligation to maintain confidentiality, but in the end they receive a document with enormous “and sometimes lurid” information that does not they would have no reason to know “not even the parents inform the school”, details the lawyer, who is co-author of the blog Privacidad Lógica, awarded by the Basque Agency for Data Protection.

Specific document In his opinion, this thorny matter could be resolved with a request to the lawyers of the Administration of Justice to issue partial testimonies or certifications of the content of the sentence that must be brought to the attention of the school, such as the attribution of parental authority, guardianship and custody, collected at the school; who is responsible for authorizing extracurricular activities; or taking pictures of the student for school publications.

“That request should be addressed because there is a legal basis for it.” The family lawyer Óscar Martínez, who maintains that the schools limit themselves to complying with the resolutions of the Ministries of Education, pronounces in this same vein. Martínez, member of the Spanish Association of Family Lawyers (AEAFA) and with an office in Valencia, gives the example of what happens in the Valencian Community, where Education asks parents to deliver a copy of the sentence to the school in full. The lawyer proposes a possible solution: standardize a document in which only relevant data for the educational system is provided.

To do this, the Administration would have to invest in computer tools that automate these processes “so that when a court issues a sentence, the data needed by the college is extracted and that document is delivered to the parties. Although ideally, the court send him directly to the center,” he says. Martínez believes that this standardized document would avoid transferring sensitive data protection material to the school, such as the physical or mental health of the parents, their assets, their debts, if they pay a compensatory pension or if they have complaints that have been filed. “In addition, if the schools received a shorter and more specific document, they would avoid having to read resolutions that can exceed ten pages. They would save a lot of time,” she adds.

Should a school know about the mental health of a student’s parents?