I don’t know the laws governing school records, however my mother is a teacher in a public school in California and it is their policy–not the law–to keep the records private. It may be against the law but they still do it. The teachers only look at the files of their students and are not allowed to take them out of the building nor are they allowed to look at the records of any other student unless they are having a problems with that student.
It is also the schools policy – again not the law – that parents don’t get to take the records home and are only to review the records with a teacher present. Again this may be against the law but they still do it. Their reasoning for this is much like a doctor not wanting a patient to read their medical records, they may be mis-read and not understood and even used against them and the school. I DO know though that if a parent requests a copy of the records they are entitled to it and given copies with written permission (release for ect.) and a note from the teacher explaining anything that may be unclear in the records.
I agree that you should send the certified letter, schools really don’t like bad publicity or lawsuits! And they can only use “their policy” up to a point, especially if you are citing federal laws. You are in the right here wanting your child’s records so do not let them tell you their policy is the law. My own mother can tell you that almost every school in America has adopted the policy to keep these records private as to aviod lawsuits and kids parents yanking them out of school. BUT this is not what the law is and they know it, they just don’t think you do. Good luck!