I graduated a year ago (June 2014) and took a year off to explore the world. Having finished my year, I went to apply to colleges, but my high school refuses to provide the transcript. In my best attempt to summarize the emails with the guidance department, accessing my grades has become inconvenient, and they wish me the best of luck getting them from elsewhere. Is this legal? What are my options?
From the comment banter under the question, I see that the school has enlisted a third party service to manage transcripts.
There are several primary reasons for this: first, it offloads a large record-keeping job from the school administration, it provides a level of standardization to the transcript format, and finally, perhaps most importantly, it provides a verifiable chain of control for the document that excludes the student.
This last is the most important.
It also sounds like both the school guidance counselor AND the representative at the third party are misguided as to your rights to the information, and their responsibilities vis a vis the information.
Their response sounds preposterous.
I can't imagine a public school would be allowed to withhold transcripts. A private school might be a different matter. (Your question doesn't clarify which.)
If I were you, I would consider this response to be an error made by a low-level, perhaps undertrained, employee. I would set an appointment to meet in person with their immediate supervisor and bring a copy of your original request, their response and a new request written by you and addressed directly to the supervisor. If that fails, I would go to successively higher levels of authority (e.g., vice-principal, principal, school board, city council, board of supervisors, mayor or board of directors if a private school) until somebody does their job and gives you that transcript.
If the records were, say, lost in a fire for example or their servers were accidentally wiped, I would demand they use their best efforts to reproduce to the best of their ability what the transcripts would or should say. You can use your old report cards, personal recollection and the memories and grade books of your old teachers to do so. Have it signed by an official person and always keep a copy in your files.
If that still doesn't get you relief, I would consult an attorney or your local legislative representative (city council member, state legislature representative or state senator). That's ridiculous.