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We have been recording meetings for years. Because we record so many meetings, we use a microcassette transcriber system with a small but powerful microphone. The recorder we use is a thin beveled square that receives sound from all four sides. The microcassettes are small and take up relatively little space.
When we record a meeting, we speak into the recorder at the very beginning and state the date, time, name or initials of the student, name of the school district, and the names of each person who is attending the meeting.
First, we do not ask if we can record. We put the recorder right in the middle of the table, turn it on, and make our identification
of the meeting, etc.
If someone from the school asks us to turn it off, we pick up the little square speaker and with the recorder running, we politely ask the person to speak directly into the microphone and clearly state their name and that the school district is forbidding that an audio record of the meeting be made.
Usually what happens next is the person raising the objection says something like "I guess its ok."
Idenfication and Filing of Recordings
Identification and filing of the recordings is critical. Because we don't have the recordings transcribed unless we need them for due process or other "proof" purposes, a clear written identification of the student's name, date, time, what recorder was used, who operated the recorder, name of the school district and meeting type is put into the plastic box that contains the tape. The box containing the tape is then is placed into the case pocket folder file in a section called "facts and notes."
If we need to transcribe a recordings, we have the parent listen to the recordings to identify each speaker's voice. We check and double check that identification whenever possible. If we need to have the recording transcribed, we have this done by a notary public. By following this process, we have not yet had a transcript denied when properly offered into evidence at a hearing.
Objections, yes, but never sustained. (knock on wood)
Tapes as Part of the Education Record
The school district will often record the meetings as well. When they record, their recordings are part of the student's educational record. We request that the school furnish us a copy of all recordings they make of the meeting. This is useful because the school's recordings often picks up comments more clearly than ours. This also discourages convenient blank spots from appearing in the school's recordings.
This sounds like a whole bunch of trouble and it is. We do it because it works -- and because good evidence (we refer to it as a clear record) can often be the leverage we need to help the district see the error of its logic and to keep a dispute from going to formal hearing.
It is surprising what people say during these meetings. We look for statements that contradict a later position, statements made against their own interests, etc.
The importance of recording meetings came home today. In a rather heated matter now in formal proceedings, opposing counsel attached meeting minutes as an exhibit to her client's reply to our motion for partial summary judgment. After reading the exhibit, voices from the exhibit screamed out "Manufactured Minutes." Sure enough, we dug out the tape, listened, and would you believe the exhibit was not an accurate reflection of the meeting? Surely not.
Brice Palmer, Vermont Advocate
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Last revised: 09/15/21