In order to comply with data protection laws, schools may now be forced to correspond with 18-year-old students rather than their parents about exam results and disciplinary records.
It has been said that parent does not actually have an automatic right to receive information held by the school regarding their child once they turn 18.
As well as receiving their own information young adult students could also take grievance procedures against individual teachers without their parent’s knowledge.
The National Association of Principals and Deputy Principals (NAPD) received legal advice, which said the issue was highly significant as the amount of young adult students is increasing.
“This is a real issue which schools will need to come to terms with it,” said NAPD director Clive Byrne said.
“There are more over-18s at schools these days due to children starting school at five as well as transition year, but many schools are not familiar with their legal obligations.”
The office of the Data Protection Commissioner confirmed that adults do have control over their own personal data and pointed out that schools could opt to give the students a choice of whether they want to receive updates or if they are happy enough to let their parents continue receiving updates.
Michael McLoughlin of Youth Work Ireland said schools should embrace the fact that they were increasingly dealing with young adults.
“There should be an equal relationship between students and teachers at that age,” he said. “Many young people don’t need parents standing over them.”
The Department of Education has also confirmed that the Education Act (1998) stated that schools were obliged to provide updates to students themselves when they turned 18.
Mr. Byrne said he could understand why many parents might feel worried about not being kept informed about issues affecting their children.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Education said compliance with data protection legislation was a matter for school boards of management.