Parental Observations in the Public School Classroom
Does a parent have an automatic right to observe his/her child in the classroom, and do schools have to secure written consent from the parents of other students in the classroom before the parent can observe his/her child in the classroom?
While the IDEA expects parents of children with disabilities to have an expanded role in the evaluation and educational placement of their children and be participants, along with school personnel, in developing, reviewing, and revising the IEPs for their children, neither the statute nor the regulations implementing the IDEA provide a general entitlement for parents of children with disabilities, or their professional representatives, to observe their children in any current classroom or proposed educational placement. The determination of who has access to classrooms may be addressed by State and/or local policy. However, we encourage school district personnel and parents to work together in ways that meet the needs of both the parents and the school, ***including providing opportunities for parents to observe their children’s classrooms and proposed placement options***. In addition, there may be circumstances in which access may need to be provided. For example, if parents invoke their right to an independent educational evaluation of their child, and the evaluation requires observing the child in the educational placement, the evaluator may need to be provided access to the placement. [Letter to Mamas, 42 IDELR 10 (OSEP 2004)]
Observations versus FERPA/student confidentiality
limiting the length and number of visits
requiring a request to the principal before a visit
requiring a conference with the teacher to determine a day and time
The school says the rationale behind the policies is the need to limit disruption to instructional time. State regulations address disruptions. Attorneys tell schools that this is easier to defend.
Parents report that they are not allowed to observe or visit their child’s classroom, or they must agree to stringent limits (e.g. 30 minutes once a month after notice xx weeks in advance).
Parents are told that “the law” requires
schools to deny parent requests to observe their child’s class because this would violate the rights of other students. The only law that deals with confidentiality is Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA regulates education records, nothing more.
Parents report that paper is taped over glass windows in doors of special ed classes to “protect student privacy.” Parents report that they are not allowed to attend school events (e.g. holiday parties, field trips) because this would violate the privacy rights of other students.
Are the parents of non-disabled kids having the same problems? I don’t think so, but don’t know so.
that the program is clearly not appropriate and the parent will quickly discover this, and
that the school is attempting to keep important information from parents.
Many Hearing Officers and Administrative Law Judges would view the refusal to allow the parent to observe as grounds to find that the proposed placement was not appropriate.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Owasso v. Falvo reiterated that public school students have no expectation of privacy.
FERPA does not specifically prohibit a parent or professional working with the parent from observing the parent’s child in the classroom. This is because FERPA would generally prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to other students in the classroom, as well as prohibit a teacher from disclosing information from a child’s education records to the parents of another child who might be observing the classroom. Further, FERPA does not protect the confidentiality of information in general; rather, FERPA applies to the disclosure of tangible records and of information derived from tangible records. [Letter to Mamas, 106 LRP 15971 (Family Policy Compliance Office 2003)]
Accordingly, no parental consent from the parents of other students in the classroom is required before a parent can observe his/her child in the classroom.
Ask to meet with the teacher for a private conference concerning your child
Call an IEP meeting and request additional assessments, supports, and services to help your child
Hire a professional to go in and observe your child to try and address your concerns
AESA also runs a special needs homeschool group, Homeschooling Special (Needs) Kids, and we also have a group for all parents and caregivers of special needs children called Special Needs Parenting Advice and Support where we discuss ALL things related to special needs care and Educating Gifted Children is where we discuss topics concerning gifted children and those that are twice exceptional (2e). I hope to see you there!
CEO and Advocate
Michelle Reed-Harris is the mother of six children including surviving quadruplets. Her frustration with doctors and educators led her on a quest to learn about all the facets that touch the quads lives as children with disabilities. In the process, she gained a lot of useful information she could share with others so she started a Facebook group focusing on special education advocacy. The group quickly grew to over 6,000+ members. Recognizing the overwhelming need for assistance, she founded a nonprofit, AESA, allowing her to provide support, advice, and advocacy to parents with children who are outside the (Bell) curve.
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