- Associated Press - Sunday, May 15, 2016

RENO, Nev. (AP) - Parents of disabled students in the Washoe County School District are criticizing a new fee for copies of school records.

Parents are upset by a 50-cents-per-page fee, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal (https://on.rgj.com/1TdPW2Q ). Parents say the average child’s file contains a few dozen pages while a disabled child’s can have hundreds of pages.

District spokeswoman Victoria Campbell said state law permits the district to charge a reasonable amount.

The newspaper says the state’s 16 other school districts don’t charge for copies. Clark County, however, gives the first copy for free but charges a $5 flat rate after that - no matter the number of pages.

The U.S. Department of Education says a fee is allowed unless it would basically prevent parents from exercising their right to inspect records.

“In the past, the WCSD did not charge a fee for special education records,” said chief student services officer Byron Green in a letter to Reno disability advocate Deirde Hammon. “However, all general education students requesting records were charged a fee. In order to align our practices, and in accordance with state and federal law, the District has created a new regulation to ensure consistent procedures for all students.”

Katherine Gutierrez’s son has Down syndrome, and she almost had to pay more than $370 to see his file totaling almost 750 pages.

According to Alyce Taylor Elementary School records, an employee was accused of calling Gutierrez’s son a brat, yanking his arm and lifting him up by his pants.

Gutierrez and Hammon contacted staff, administrators and a member of the school board. She was eventually told she didn’t have to pay the fee as the new policy was implemented just after her request.

“Please keep these records in a secure location as any copies requested moving forward will be subject to a charge,” wrote a district employee in an email to Gutierrez.

“I will of course keep these records safe as well as my son, which is the reason why these records were requested in the first place,” Gutierrez wrote in her reply to several district employees.

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