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"HELP! The school videotaped my son - without my consent - and won't let me see the tape. What can I do?"

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Linda writes:

My 5yr old son was videotaped at school (without my knowledge) for the purposes of doing a functional behavioral analysis. At first I was told I could view this tape before the next IEP meeting. Later I was told that I would not be allowed to see the tape of my son due to confidentiality for other kids on the tape. (The tape has already been viewed by a behaviorist and the school psychologist.)

I thought the law states that a parent should be advised of all assessment tools used to make an evaluation and that parents should be viewed as an equal participant in the IEP process.

I believe I can contribute more to this process if I am allowed to view the tape and see what happens before and after my son’s behavior.

How can I get the school to let me view the tape?

I considered paying someone to edit the tape (with a fuzzy black blob over the other kids faces to protect their identity). Please help.

Wrightslaw responds:

The school's position is illogical. When you go to school or observe your child in class or go on a field trip or to a class party, you see the faces of your child's classmates. Schools are under no obligation to protect the identity of school children from the parents of other school children.

You are correct in your statement that the school should request parental permission before they evaluate your child. But don’t try to hammer them with the law - try honey first.

Write a polite letter to the school, summarizing the facts - that they made a tape of your son, that you did not know about this until after the taping was done, that they tell you that you are not allowed to view the tape of your child, and that they seem to believe that they cannot provide you with a copy of the tape of your child's - which must surely be an error on someone's part.

Tell them that you know they agree that you would be in a much better position to work with them if they advise you of their plans to evaluate your son and allow you to provide and receive information about your child.

Tell them that you are sure this is a simple mistake or misunderstanding on someone's part. Say that if there is a law which says that schools are not allowed to share tapes and other records with parents, you would appreciate it if they would provide you with information about this law.

Because it seems that an unfortunate mistake has been made about the taping incident, you are including a blank tape along with the letter. If they are short staffed, you will be happy to have the tape copied. However, you believe that it is important for you to have a copy of your son 's tape to review so that you will be in a better position to work with the school staff on his behalf.

Finally, you want them to know that you value the relationship with the staff who work with your son. You hope to have many opportunities to work closely and cooperatively with them in the future. If they have any questions, feel free to write or call. Thank you.


For more help with letter writing, read "The Art of Writing Letters."

"The Art of Writing Letters" is taken from a chapter in the Wrightslaw Tactics & Strategy Manual. By using these techniques, you’ll learn to write effective letters that gain positive results.

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