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Dimitry K., Esq.
Dimitry K., Esq., Attorney
Category: Family Law
Satisfied Customers: 41220
Experience:  I provide family and divorce law advice to my clients in my firm.
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I feel that an administrator and another school employee at

Customer Question

I feel that an administrator and another school employee at my daughter's middle school have, separately and together, breached her and our family's right to privacy by acting & speaking about situations within our family, my daughter & her siblings' school records/history, as well as HIPPA violation in a public area where another student was able to walk in and overhear the discussion and details of our family.
I am not sure if we have a valid case, but I strongly believe we do. I am not sure how we find out what can be done, who we can talk to and what the process would entail. We are located in the state of PA.
are you able to advise or provide any general info that could help us?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Family Law
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your question. I am a licensed Pennsylvania professional and will be happy to assist you.

I have reviewed your question and understand the situation. How specifically can I help?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I am wondering whether students in PA have a right to privacy protection within the school - as well as whether or not HIPPA covers students' current medical + medical history info being talked about in an open area with another employee. There were two separate instances 1 day apart.First, my daughter came into the school nurse"s office at school to report a headache as she was being watched for concussion. From my understanding, the school receptionist was hanging out in the nurses office & did not excuse herself. When my daughter was speaking to the nurse, the receptionist interjected that there was 'nothing in [my daughter's] school excuse that mentioned concussion' and thus the school nurse sent my daughter back to class. This is, at best, ***** ***** the nurses part as concussion and head injury require rest while symptoms are still creeping up and by not attending to my daughter's medical needs, but including this disregard being based on the interjection of a secretary.The 2nd incidence was the following day when i went into the school to voice my concerns and displeasure at how this incidence was handled. I did address the nurse & the secretary directly before the vice-principal took the discussion to his office. I let him know in very direct, clear terms what my issue was - which he then tried to re-direct to a discussion of an attendance problem from the year before - as well as the trend with my other 2 children that are no longer students at that school. {this does go against the school district's policy re: employee conduct. However the main concern from this 2nd incident is that later the same day, a student who is in my daughter's section went to go to the nurse, when she walked into the school office, she walked into a conversation between the vice-principal & the secretary that included derogatory remarks about my daughter as well as references about my family's history and that 'it runs in the family'.my immediate thought was that when my middle child was at the school we did have severe attendance issues due to her mental health issues. As a parent trying to ask for help & explain some of our history that was directly involved, i did disclose to the vice-principal my own history with mental health as i had just spent 2 separate into a facility that i had checked into voluntarily due to suicidal ideations. My gut reaction was that this is what the the vice-principal was referring to in this that conversation A) was sharing private information with another employee who has no need or right to know any of our family's history. B) the conversation was also held in a public area for anyone else to overhear, as it was by my daughter's classmate. C) when the vice-principal involved realized that the conversation was indeed overheard, the talk ceased immediately and then later in the day he made it a point to come to my daughter's class, mill around her & then ask how she was doing. My daughter was, by then, afraid of trouble brewing and chose to hide from the vice-principal that she was both mad & upset. This, in my opinion, shows me that he (the V.principal knew that he crossed a line and was checking about to assess how much trouble he may be in.Over the years in this school district we have, several times, had similar instances with a school nurse and privacy/medical info of another student being shared directly with me via a phone conversation; also a bullying situation which was dismissed as unimportant to them even though that child was attacked & threatened physically and verbally in the cafeteria with staff & students present. A house principal had to become involved and physically remove the bully from the incident. My daughter spent what time she had left in the semester by handling her classes from home as they would not take any action that made her feel safe in the school. This was the same child with the history of mental health related issues. She is now at home in cyber school directly because of the bullying incidents.My actual point being that, as a vocal parent I have several times approached the Superintendent regarding the lack of concern & adherence to the district's own policies regarding bullying and was met with a basic disregard and dismissal of my concerns. This shared feeling of mistrust for the school and school district, is what leads me to investigate our legal rights to privacy and whether any laws have been breached.If you need any other information, I would be happy to discuss with you. iguess the bot***** *****ne is, am i being overly sensitive or is this a legitimate concern that could be officially handled.
Expert:  Dimitry K., Esq. replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for your follow-up.

HIPAA protection extends to underage patients, which includes students. But this protection has to be requested. If your daughter publicly stated to a receptionist that she has a headache, or where she stated it had no 'reasonable' privacy protection (a closed door, for example), there is no HIPAA protection for such information. In addition HIPAA does not cover the whole school it covers only three types of individuals or entities--it covers medical facilities and professionals, medical insurance companies, and medical intermediaries such as medical billing offices. A receptionist who is not a medical professional is not covered under law.

I can potentially agree with you that if the nurse failed to take your child into a private location, then a claim for negligence can be made. But if your child volunteered this information, that is not a violation.

Now the second issue is more direct and potentially able to be pursued. This may be a basis for a defamation suit and a breach of duty to maintain confidentiality if unrelated third parties were part of this conversation. It also becomes a HIPAA violation as far as the nurse is concerned if she was the one who communicated this information herself to the district without obtaining proper waives from you. Here, you are not being overly sensitive (the first issue is likely borderline), so you may want to pursue this further and even consider retaining counsel.

Sincerely,

Dimitry, Esq.

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