Ask Brian: When I turn 18, am I entitled to receive my grades from school?
18 year olds are entitled to be treated as adults by schools
Eighteen years olds are adults in the eyes of the law. Photo: iStock
Question: I’m about to turn 18 years old and in sixth year. Teachers tell me that while enrolled in school I am not entitled to sign permission slips, leave early for appointments or receive my grades. Will this change when I become an adult?
Answer: As an 18 year old, you are an adult in the eyes of the law and are entitled to be treated as such by all institutions operating in the State. In relation to the release of your personal data from your school to your parents or any external body, you should be asked for consent in the first instance.
Unfortunately, even though the law is crystal clear, there is no recognition of this in the majority of our second-level schools.
If your school was to act in compliance with the law, it should cease to communicate in any manner with your parents or guardians once you pass your 18th birthday, unless you voluntarily signed an authorisation to enable the college to continue to do so.
The law as laid out in the Education Act (1998) states that a school shall use its available resources to “ensure that parents of a student, or in the case of a student who has reached the age of 18 years, the student, have access in the prescribed manner to records kept by that school relating to the progress of that student in his or her education”.
Furthermore, under our data protection legislation, individuals over 18 years of age have control over their personal data.
Under this legislation, consent is often the legitimising condition for collection or use or disclosure of personal data. In such circumstances, the validly obtained consent from any adult capable of giving consent would be sufficient.
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner has indicated that schools may give a choice to a student that reaches age 18 over whether they wish to directly receive updates on their progress, or wish to have their parents continue to receive updates for as long as they remain a student at that school.
The Department of Education has stated that in the education area, the Data Protection Commissioner stipulates that obtaining consent from the 18-year-old students is of paramount importance in these circumstances.
Far from seeing these rights as a negative, schools should comply with the law of the land and treat 18-year-old pupils as adults in every way.
This would go a long way towards preparing you for the reality of college and working life, which you will face the moment you step out of the school gate after you complete your Leaving Cert.
Many students, when presented after their 18th birthday with the reality of exercising total responsibility for their performance and behaviour, would find the challenge quite daunting.