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The state-of-the-art in what is best for children of divorce. Every parent, judge and family law attorney must view this video to save their children from the ravages of divorce.
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Fathers' Rights Victory In Massachusetts
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
By Wendy McElroy
A determined father in Massachusetts has delivered an early Father's Day gift to non-custodial parents, the overwhelming majority of whom are dads.

Dr. Henry M. Fassler has successfully contested a 1998 Massachusetts law that requires a non-custodial parent to have court certification as a non-batterer on a yearly basis before he (or she) is allowed access to their children's school records. The school system currently views all non-custodial parents as guilty of battery until proven innocent. But all that is going to change.

The specifics of Fassler's case: he wanted to see the academic class list for his 17-year-old daughter Lindsay, who had asked him for help. No charge or complaint had ever been filed against Fassler; he is on good terms with his ex-wife and children.

When the school refused the class list, Fassler not only got angry, he also got active. Last October, he complained to the Family Policy Compliance Office at the U.S. Department of Education, challenging the statute as discriminatory. On May 6, the DOE sent a letter to Massachusetts' Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll, which warned that "the commonwealth and every school district in Massachusetts is in violation of federal law, and has been for years."

State to seek repeal of access law for noncustodial parents
Student record policy at issue
By Patricia Wen, Boston Globe Staff  |  May 22, 2005
State education officials plan to ask for the repeal of a statute that has forced many divorced fathers to prove they are not dangerous before they can receive their child's report card, which may include a former spouse's address.

The move was prompted by federal authorities who, after being contacted by a local father, said the law was discriminatory and put Massachusetts in jeopardy of losing federal funds.

Within the next two months, Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll will come up with a new policy that will treat divorced parents more fairly, while still protecting parents who have legitimate reasons to worry that former spouses could use student records to locate and harm the family, said spokeswoman Heidi Perlman.

Perlman said the commissioner has always understood ''the spirit" of the current law, but agrees with officials at the US Department of Education that the existing statute ''went too far."

''We're pleased to be in a position to adjust this law," Perlman said.

Some advocates for divorced fathers have been lobbying against the law since it was passed seven years ago, arguing that it treated noncustodial parents unfairly.

The current law applies to any noncustodial parent, who is typically a divorced or unmarried father who does not have joint legal physical custody of the child but often has visitation rights. In order to see their child's educational records, these parents have to show school administrators written proof, through court records or affidavits, that they pose no danger to the former spouse or child.

The process has to be repeated each year.

''It's a guilty until proven innocent law," said Ned Holstein, who heads Fathers & Families, a Boston-based fathers' advocacy group.

The state law came under scrutiny by federal education officials after they received a complaint from a divorced father from Milford who had been initially barred last summer from seeing his 17-year-old daughter's academic class schedule.

The father, Henry Fassler, said he had long been angered by the 1998 statute that created what he called extensive ''hoops" for divorced fathers to see their children's school records.

He said the law was initially the brainchild of some fathers' rights advocates who wanted a law spelling out the rights of parents to see school records related to their children.

But after battered-women's groups lobbied for changes, the measure was amended to include distinctions between custodial and noncustodial parents and legal proof of parent safety. These changes, Fassler said, transformed the law into an ''abuse-prevention bill."

Indignant as he was, Fassler said he didn't complain at his daughter's school, worried that another child still in elementary school might be embarrassed if he made a scene. Plus, Fassler said, his former wife, with whom he shares a positive relationship, voluntarily gave him access to all the records that she received.

''I was getting them anyway, so I figured why start trouble," said Fassler, 62, who works as a dentist in Wellesley.

But last August, when his daughter had a problem with her high school academic schedule, Fassler called the school to see her class list. When school officials balked on grounds that he was a noncustodial father, Fassler's anger over the law was renewed. He said his daughter, now old enough to understand the inequities, agreed that he had to speak his mind.

This led to his crusade to scrutinize the federal and state laws, prompting him to contact the Family Policy Compliance Office at the US Department of Education.

On May 6, LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the federal office, wrote a letter to Massachusetts education officials, saying their law violates federal rules allowing parents access to student records.

In his letter to Driscoll, the federal official said every state must allow parents the right to see educational records involving their children unless provided court orders or laws that ''specifically revokes these rights."

Nancy Scannell, director of government affairs for Jane Doe Inc., a nonprofit group that works to reduce domestic violence, who helped draft the 1998 bill, said she understands the legal concerns raised by federal officials and will eagerly participate in any discussion to rewrite the bill. But she emphasized that many fathers' advocates were at the negotiation table when the current bill was written, and women's groups like hers did not ''hijack" the legislation in any way.

Scannell said she understands that all parents want to be involved in their children's education and desire access to records, but that wish needs to be balanced against other parents' legitimate safety concerns.

''We may need to revisit the method," she said. ''But our intent was always a good one."

Threatening to take away Federal Funding wakes up State Officials

Bay State ripped as divorced dad wins bid for school info
By Ann E. DonlanWednesday, May 18, 2005 - Updated: 09:54 AM EST

U.S. education officials have flunked Massachusetts for requiring divorced parents to wage an expensive battle for access to their child's school records, after a crusading Milford father successfully challenged a flawed 7-year-old state law.

``This is the big stick,'' Dr. Henry Fassler, a 62-year-old father, said of the recent U.S. Department of Education warning to Education Commissioner David P. Driscoll. ``The commonwealth and every school district in Massachusetts is in violation of federal law, and has been for years.''

Bay State parents who live apart from their children after divorce have been thwarted in their efforts to seek public school records, including report cards, under a state law that must be scrapped unless the state wants to risk losing millions in education aid.

``However laudable state law may be in its desire to protect children and custodial parents,'' states a May 6 letter to Driscoll from LeRoy S. Rooker, director of the U.S. Department of Education's Family Policy Compliance Office, non-custodial parents cannot be denied access to school records unless there is evidence those ``rights have been specifically revoked.''

Fassler, a dentist, said he moved to Milford just to be near his 17-year-old daughter, Lindsey, a high school junior. He never had problems accessing her records until he tried to get a copy of his daughter's schedule last year from a school official, who initially said he could not provide it under a state law the district was following after receiving training from the state. He did his homework and filed a detailed complaint in October.

Driscoll told the Herald that the DOE will work with lawmakers to change the law and will notify superintendents this week of the conflict. ``We're in agreement with Dr. Fassler that this needs to be fixed,'' said Driscoll, who added that he doubted that the law ``came up very often . . . on the ground.''

The Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition is an organization dedicated to promoting the Father/Child relationship and promoting gender equality in family law.
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