Testimony Before the Council of the District of Columbia Committee of the Whole at the Public Hearing on Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act of 2021

Sep 27, 2022

My name is Tameria Lewis and I am the Senior Director of Government Affairs of the DC Charter School Alliance, the local non-profit that advocates on behalf of public charter schools to ensure that every student can choose high-quality public schools that prepare them for lifelong success.

I’m here today to testify in support of the Student and Minor Access to Records and Transcripts (SMART) Act of 2021. Many schools have older students under 18 that, for a variety of reasons, would greatly benefit from being allowed to personally request their academic records and transcripts without parental consent. Whether a student is in foster care, as I once was, may be experiencing homelessness, or faces other challenges with parents or legal guardians that may present a barrier for timely accessing vital records and transcripts, we should be doing everything in our power to remove barriers to their success in high school and beyond.

As we enter the third school year dealing with the impacts of the pandemic, it’s particularly important that we have a sense of urgency for our high school students who will have the least amount of time to recover academically. This is particularly true for students designated “at risk” of academic failure, the District’s most under-resourced and vulnerable students, who may have fallen behind and missed out on other supportive programs disrupted during the pandemic.

This bill is a relatively small, but meaningful change that can make these young students’ lives just a little easier by removing an unnecessary barrier. That’s good policy, especially in a time where we should be doing everything we can to prioritize support for high school students as they finish school and prepare to pursue postsecondary education or employment opportunities. We are grateful to Councilmember Henderson and the other co-introducers for proposing this change.

Implementing the SMART Act

As the Council moves forward on this policy, I want to elevate a couple of minor implementation concerns our school leaders have raised. First, charter school leaders want to make sure that this bill is crafted in such a way that local education agencies don’t encounter compliance issues with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Another question school leaders have is whether there should be procedures in place to notify parents, whether they are custodial or noncustodial, when a student requests their records or transcripts. We hope the Council will clarify these points as the bill moves forward.

Moving Forward

Anything we can do to make the lives of our students who may be experiencing difficult situations outside of the walls of the school easier is worth doing. We applaud the Council for working to eliminate this obstacle – one that, if eliminated, can have a major impact on a student’s success.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter, and I welcome your questions.