COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA
DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
P.O. BOX 2120
RICHMOND, VIRGINIA 23218-2120

SUPTS. MEMO NO. 3
June 1, 2001

REGULATORY
 
TO: Division Superintendents
FROM: Jo Lynne DeMary
Superintendent of Public Instruction
SUBJECT: Confidentiality of Studentsí Eligibility for Free or Reduced Price School Meal Benefits

Recent amendments to and legal clarification of the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (NSLA) and the Child Nutrition Act (CNA), allow changes in the Department of Education's School Nutrition Programs previous instructions regarding the release of information about a studentís eligibility for free or reduced price meals. The disclosure of the information about a studentís eligibility for free or reduced price meals is now possible under certain circumstances and within certain constraints as outlined in this document. However, the statute does not intend that programs or individuals should have unlimited access to free or reduced price eligibility information.

This policy is effective beginning 2001-2002 school year.

This memorandum addresses:

These requirements apply to confidentiality regardless of whether the student was approved through the direct certification or the application process. Disclosure of a studentís free or reduced price meal eligibility beyond that authorized by the statute is permitted only with parental consent.

The guidance and instruction provided in this memorandum apply to the confidentiality of information regardless of the manner in which it is maintained including, but not limited to, print, type, microfilm, microfiche, electronic formats, and/or databases.

Attachment 1 is a chart that summarizes the information in the subsequent paragraphs.

I. WHAT INFORMATION CAN BE DISCLOSED WITHOUT PARENTAL CONSENT?

  1. Disclosure of Aggregate Information

  2. School Food Authorities (SFAs) may disclose school level aggregate free and reduced price meal eligibility information that does not individually identify students. Aggregate information on the number of students approved for free or reduced price meals and/or free milk benefits may be released to any organization or agency having a bona fide use for the information. This information is also available on the Virginia Department of Education's website at http://www.pen.k12.va.us/VDOE/Finance/Nutrition/statistics.html
     

  3. Disclosure of a studentís name and eligibility status.

  4. School Food Authorities may disclose a studentís name and eligibility status, without parental consent, only to those persons directly connected with the administration or enforcement of the following programs:
     

    1. Federal Education Programs that provide academic and/or vocational education benefits to children, such as Title I, National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and/or programs under the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Applied Technology Education Act.

    2.  
    3. State Education Programs that provide academic and/or vocational benefits. Representatives from State or local education agencies evaluating the results and compliance with student assessment programs are covered only if the assessment programs were established and continue to be administered at the State level.

    4.  
    5. Other Federal and State means tested Nutrition Programs with eligibility standards comparable to the National School Lunch Program. For example, assistance programs to households with income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, such as the Food Stamp Program.

    6.  
    This does not imply that these persons should have routine access to a studentís eligibility status. There must be a "need to know" for legitimate purposes. No other uses of this information by the above stated persons are permitted.
     
  5. Disclosure of ALL information

  6. In addition to names and eligibility status, all information obtained through the free or reduced price meal eligibility process (including information obtained by application or direct certification) may be disclosed, without parental consent, to persons directly connected with the administration and enforcement of the following programs:
     

    1. Comptroller General of the United States for the purposes of audit and examination.

    2.  
    3. Law Enforcement Officials investigating alleged violations of any of the programs under the NSLA or CNA, or investigating violations of any programs authorized to have access to names and eligibility status.

    4.  
    5. Child Nutrition Programs authorized under the National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act.

    6.   This means that student information collected from one Child Nutrition Program may be shared with another Child Nutrition Program, even if the programs are sponsored by different entities. For example, a public school may share information from the studentsí free or reduced price meal applications, without parental consent, to a Summer Food Service Program administered by the local Department of Parks and Recreation.
       
    7. State Medicaid and the Childrenís Health Insurance Program (Virginia Family Access to Medical Insurance-FAMIS) for the sole purpose of enrolling children into the programs. While consent is not required to share the eligibility information, parents must be notified of the intent to disclose this information prior to disclosure. They must also be given the opportunity to decline having their information shared.

    8.  
  7. Must households be notified that information about their eligibility for free or reduced price meals may be disclosed?

  8. YES-- Notification to the household of the plan to disclose eligibility information to State Medicaid or the State Childrenís Health Insurance Programs (VA FAMIS) is mandatory prior to the disclosure.

    NO-- Notification to the household of the plan to disclose eligibility information to federal or state education programs, child nutrition programs, comptroller general and law enforcement officials, outside the originating program is not required, but strongly recommended.

    The Department of Education, School Nutrition Programís (DOE-SNP) 2001-2002 Uniform Policy Statement and Annual Letter of Agreement to Participate in the Federal Programs contains the required new disclosure language. (See Superintendent's Regulatory Memos #4 and #5)
     

  9. Are written agreements required between the determining agencies and the requesting entity?

  10. YES. Prior to disclosure or use of any information for purposes other than for the program for which the information was obtained, the determining agency and the receiving entity must sign a written agreement that describes:

    The DOE-SNP 2001-2002 Uniform Policy Statement and Annual Letter of Agreement to Participate in the Federal Programs also contain prototype agreements.
II. WHAT TYPES OF OTHER DISCLOSURES REQUIRE WRITTEN PARENTAL CONSENT?
The disclosure of a studentís name and any eligibility information to any individual or program not specifically authorized under the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) requires written parental consent. Some examples of programs that may want to use this information, but would not be authorized to receive this information, without prior written parental consent are:
  1. Local education or health programs that are not state sponsored.

  2.  
  3. Local school level activities that wish to use a studentís eligibility as the basis of determining services or to waive fees associated with things such as text books, field trips, athletic events, or fees for summer school or any similar purpose.

  4.  
III. PENALTIES FOR UNAUTHORIZED RELEASE OF A STUDENTíS CONFIDENTIAL INFORMATION
The National School Lunch Act, as amended by PL 103-448 and PL 106-224 (42 U.S.C. ' 1758), establishes penalties for publishing, divulging, disclosing, or making known in any manner or to any extent not authorized by federal law, any information obtained. The penalties may be:
The agency that makes the free and reduced price meal determination is the only agency that can decide to disclose eligibility information.
For further information or assistance, please contact the school nutrition specialist assigned to your division or Catherine Digilio Grimes at (804) 225-2074.

JLD/CDG/idl

Attachment

/administrators/superintendents_memos/2001/reg003a.pdf