Yaakov looked up, as the door opened. Good. The parent before him was coming out of the classroom. Yaakov rushed in, and sat in front of the teacher.
“Ah, yes. You’re Yoni’s father,” began the teacher. “What a pleasure to have him in our class. Was there anything in particular that you’d like to discuss?”
“Actually, I’m concerned about his grades in Gemara class,” Yaakov responded. “It seems to me that Yoni is very frustrated with his inability to keep up with Gemara class. I’m thinking that the problem stems from the difference in style of learning, now that he’ in high school, compared to the style in his middle school. Do you think that’s possible?”
“That’s certainly possible” replied the teacher.
“Do you think you could show me the grades of the other boys, who came in with him from the same middle school?” Yaakov inquired. “That way I’ll be able to see whether or not Yoni has a particular problem with his learning, or if it’s just that he has to get used to a different style, like the other kids.”
“Well...” The teacher paused. “I don’t think it’s a problem for me to tell you the grades of the other students, without names of course.”
“Without names?” retorted Yaakov indignantly. “What will that do? I want to see how Yoni is doing relative to normal kids. If you tell me Aryeh Glupstein’s grade, for example, that won’t mean anything. Aryeh is a genius. No, I mean I want to see the grades of the boys with their names. That way, I’ll get a real picture of how Yoni is doing.”
Is Yaakov correct? Is the teacher allowed to show him other students’ grades, with their names, or is it forbidden for the teacher to divulge this information?
Answer of Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, shlita:
If the father insists that he must see the grades of the students, with their names, and that hearing the grades alone is not sufficient, it is permitted for the teacher to show him this information. This is on condition that it is clear that it is of benefit to the father to have this information. Additionally, it must be apparent that the father is a person who is careful about not gossiping, and he will not relate this information to anyone else. This is to ensure that no damage will be caused to the other students as a result.
Answer of Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, shlita:
Revealing students’ grades to the father, together with their names, is forbidden, due to the prohibition of lashon hara (forbidden derogatory or damaging speech). If the father is convinced that he must see this information, he may contact the students, and request their permission. If the students are below the age of bar mitzva, the father must receive permission from the parents. (Even if the students are above bar mitzva age, it is proper to ask their parents. This is because the parents are financing the students’ educations, and, additionally, because parents are more capable of understanding the ramifications.)[i]
Rabbi Yaakov Meir Stern, shlita agrees with Rabbi Ariel, that it is forbidden for the teacher to divulge this information to the father, without permission.
In summary: According to Rabbi Moshe Shternbuch, it is permitted, on condition that the father will not reveal the information to anyone else. According to Rabbi Ariel, it is forbidden, unless the students and/or their parents grant permission.
[i] Even if this is for some benefit, as the father contends, this does not permit the speaking of lashon hara. (This is not the same as the ruling of the Chafetz Chaim, in which he permits warning someone about a problem with a potential business or marriage partner. In that case, that is a matter of saving someone from potential damage, and we are commanded by the Torah "do not stand idly by while your brother's blood is being spilled." In our case, it is not a matter of saving anyone from potential damage.)