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I've been subpoenaed. What do I do?

I have been served with a subpoena to testify in a custody dispute over a student in my class. The subpoena also orders me to bring this student's records to court. What should I do?

First, show the subpoena to school administrators, who may in turn consult school division attorneys about producing student records in court. Virginia Code section 22.1-287 restricts access to student records to parents or legal guardians, other schools, current teachers, law enforcement, and social service personnel. Others must use proper judicial process for access to student records. Separate subpoenas should be used to summon the teacher as a witness and to have records produced in court. A classroom teacher is not the legal custodian of student records, so school officials will advise you whether you can bring records to court. A school attorney may appear in court if there is a question about producing records.

Another reason you need to show the subpoena to school administrators is that doing so gives notice that you will miss school to appear in court. Please make sure you leave appropriate plans for a substitute, and ask a school administrator whether you should return to school once you are excused from court.

If the lawyer subpoenaed you without speaking to you first, call the lawyer. Ask to go over the questions you will be asked. Listen carefully, answer only the direct question, and do not volunteer additional information. Do likewise when you testify in court. You know the student as a classroom teacher. Your testimony, focused on the child's achievement and behavior in school, may or may not be important to the custody case. If you are excused from testifying, make sure the lawyer writes to withdraw the subpoena.

Call your VEA/NEA UniServ Director (UD) for help communicating with school administrators and reviewing school policies about leave and pay for your court day. Your UD can also help you contact the lawyer to check on payment of witness fees, mileage, and other travel expenses, and to review your testimony. If necessary, your UD will contact VEA to provide you with legal advice or representation.


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