Can Parents Observe Children’s Classrooms & Placements?

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Do I have a right to observe the class before agreeing (or not agreeing) to a placement for my child? The special ed director said I cannot observe the class because of confidentiality issues with the other children.

Some schools take the position that parents and/or their representatives cannot observe a child in the classroom because this would violate the privacy of other children.

Do all public school students have privacy rights? Do children with disabilities have different privacy rights that require schools to educate them in secret?

Does the the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act provide a right for parents to observe their children’s classrooms or proposed placements?

Does the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) prohibit parents or their professional representatives from observing a child in a special education or regular classroom?

What do you think?

For answers to these and other questions about confidentiality and student privacy (and useful strategies if you encounter this problem), read Parent Observations v. Student Confidentiality by Pete and Pam Wright at

You’ll also learn about parental rights to observe your child’s classroom from an unexpected source – the No Child Left Behind Act!

Recommended Resource: In response to requests from the Education Law Center, the U. S. Department of Education clarified parental observations of children under the IDEA and student confidentiality under FERPA.

Read Answers to Questions about Parent Observations, Privacy and Confidentiality from the U.S. Dept of Ed at

  1. I didn’t think schools could forbid parents from observing their children’s classrooms. Children under 18 are the parent’s responsibility, not the schools. Minors can’t get surgery without a parent’s permission and school should not be allowed to keep teaching plans private.

    • Teacher here. Many schools actively collect lesson plans in case anyone wants to look at them. I believe, in general, any parent can observe a classroom, provided they are legally allowed to be in the school and go through whatever proper channels are in place (by legally allowed, felonies and stuff). I’ve rarely seen parents take advantage of observing the classroom or lesson plans, but I have seen it just the same.

      The one issue I had was a set of parents observing the classroom then went to the principal to complain about how an autistic boy was in their daughter’s class.

    • They can’t but they may have set rules such as 24 hours notice or by appointment. That is just due to the crazy times we live in. Many schools do collect and look at lesson plans but some I know do it just to see if it is being done.

    • School attorneys generally tell administrators that they should not deny all parent observations. What many districts do is set guidelines for observations that give principals some authority to control & limit observations. e.g. make requests ahead of time, observations when students are not in the room, get teachers ok, limit the amount of time, etc. So it is important to ask for the district’s policy on observations.

    • Eva, I think I understand your position: schools should not be able to limit or prevent parents from observing their child’s classroom. In our training programs, we discuss how important it is to be able to step into the shoes of people on the other side of the table and answer these questions–
      1. How do they see the problem? (Perceptions)
      2. How do they feel about the problem? (Beliefs)
      3. What do they want? (Interests)
      4. What are they afraid will happen if they give you what you want? (FEARS)

      You know what YOU want. What does the school/school administration want?

  2. I have concerns about my 3 year old in preschool, when he won’t talk about it at all and what they do, but he always tells me everything. why this now? He throws a fit before school and picking up bad habits. why can’t I observe him in class? Please help. he is so smart and outgoing they are holding him back.

  3. Today I again asked about visiting our son’s special education classroom at his level four setting school. I was given the following response:

    “As far as coming to observe, we would not get accurate results because different people coming to observe changes the dynamic of the classroom. Also, our school policy prevents us from allowing parent observations due to privacy rights of all students. What we can do is video tape a portion of a day and send it to you. Is there a specific time of day you are looking for? Let me know and we can get that done.”

    Do I have any legal grounds on which to challenge this policy?

      • Situations like this can be difficult for parents to resolve, & there is no approach that works in every situation. The Wrightslaw article on Why Schools Say No can be helpful to parents.

  4. Our son, who has high functioning ASD with behavior challenges, is currently in a level four setting school. He is only in the first grade and we are fighting to have him in a different environment because he is vulnerable to learning additional inappropriate behaviors in his current academic environment. He is in an EBD setting instead of ASD. He has only one other classmate.

    Because it is a level four setting, we are prohibited from ever observing or visiting his classroom while school is in session. The school site’s HIPPA law as the reasoning. We live in MN and have been told we should challenge this reasoning. I need the words to accurately challenge. Any advice would be so greatly appreciated.

  5. Our state (Utah) does have laws that allow parents to observe their student in class. What about a relative and would it matter if the relative is a preservice teacher but not in the district of the student?

  6. Hi my question is could I sit in with my son and be present during his assessments with the psychologist & occupational therapist? The special Ed staff in my son’s school said I cannot because it will affect the results, but I don’t believe it. I want to know my rights. My son is 13 in 8 the grade. Thank you, just looking for answers.

    • Bety, The purpose of an evaluation is to identify your child’s strengths, deficits, and needs. The evaluator will need information about your child’s educational and medical history from you (the parent), the teachers, and your child. You can help by providing information about your concerns and by describing your observations, and info about his strengths and interests.
      If your son may have a disability, he has a right to a comprehensive evaluation in all areas that may be affected by the disability. There is no right for a parent to be present during an evaluation.
      Be sure your child has a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast before the evaluation.
      The evaluator will prepare a written evaluation report. Review this report. Take notes. Highlight areas that are not clear to you. After the evaluation, you and the evaluator will meet for a parent feedback meeting. If you have questions about the evaluation or report, this is a good time to ask questions.

      • Thank you ,so i cannot be present with the occupational therapist and psychologist ??during the assessment ?

        • Psychologists are required to protect the testing equipment such as stimulus items from individuals not trained in their use. So you would not be able to observe a psychological evaluation. This is per the American Psychological Association testing requirements and the testing company’s proprietary information.

    • Your presence may invalidate standardized test results. Testing is supposed to be conducted without distraction. Your presence would be a distraction. They aren’t doing it to be mean, but rather to get accurate and valid results. They should obtain a case history, concerns, and may also provide ratings scales for you to fill out to receive your input. Some may even ask for you to play or interact with your child and make observations (usually with preschool aged students).

  7. My special ed classroom is located next to the teacher work room where parents are continuously working. The walls are so thin that everything can be heard. I have a concern that my students’ rights to privacy are being invaded because any parent working in that room can hear the sessions as well as any testing, phone conversations or IEP meetings being held in my room. My principal does not feel that it violates their rights. Can anyone point me to information that I can provide to make sure my students’ rights are protected?

  8. Is it legal for schools to impose limits on parent observations? We have been informed that while usual protocols of arranging an observation beforehand and being accompanied to an observation have remained in place, we are now being limited to no more than 1 hour every other month; meaning we may only observe 4x/year vs. their neurotypical sibling any time we wish it. I have a hard time believing this is legal and question whether it is discriminatory. Even with the “safety” excuse, it sounds very similar to old arguments imposing segregation in schools or keeping women out of the military. I would welcome advice on this subject, especially whom to appeal as our school administration has completely turned over (for a fifth time).

    • Apparently, I got the teacher in trouble because she was allowing me to walk my son to class and pick him up after school from his classroom. I am to stay behind the gate and wait for the staff to walk him to me. I asked about visiting the classroom and was handed this stupid policy which states that I need to provide 48 hr. notice to the administrator and at her discretion, she will allow me to visit but with her present and only for no more than 30 min. THis also applies to volunteering and attending special events. Never heard of this and I have worked as a teacher and counselor for 4 different districts.
      Is this legal and can they create such policy?

  9. HELP!! Please someone advise me. My grandson is ADHD and Bipolar and is having trouble in school. He has one substitute that has been there since about October, and another one since January. They are not certified to teach nor have degrees in education. My grandson has a 504 Plan that doesn’t get followed. His grades have fallen. I have ask to observe the classrooms and have been denied. I can’t go into a substitute classroom, only veteran teachers for 30 minutes a day and that is not every day. I want my grandson to be successful. What should I do? What legal rights do I have? The principal said the superintendent agrees with the 30 minutes.

  10. My son was involved in a fight at school among what started out to be him fighting one student then up to 4. He is under a 504 plan due to him having multiple health conditions, which one is he is a hemophaliac. He isn’t suppose to be hit NONE. Any form of head trauma the health care forms and 504 plainly states 911.
    Principle called me stating my son started the fight, regardless who started this inhumane act, the procedures were not followed. Children sent me video footage of my sons fight. There was a horrific scene. My son caused the suspect that bullied him and threatened to kill him to lose blood. He broke his nose and teeth. My daughter ended up having to jump in due to the “gang fight” that occurred. But school said video shown 1 on 1 and suspended. Why am i forbidden to see school video?

    • seems to me they are covering there butts. I haven’t had a chance on reading my handbook carefully. but I am. this world is getting worse and worse i would go to the board of education and my lawyer. I keep one on hand you never know when your gonna need one.

  11. Can school officials such as a curriculum specialist observe a regular education student in the classroom without the parents consent?

    • If it’s for the purpose of determining if your child should receive special education, no, they cannot without your consent. It would be considered an evaluation, which requires both prior written notice and parent consent.

  12. My child doesn’t have a disability,,but there has been an ongoing problem with her math teacher saying racial things and yelling at her. Her class is from 9:45am-11:15am. The principal says I can only observe my childs class for 20mins a day. The principal says It is a disturbance to other children when a parent sits in. How do I know if I can sit longer?..I’d like to help my child understand her classwork if her teacher won’t help her. What can I do? I need help.

  13. Retraining is what the teachers need. Treating the children Fair and being capable of dealing with issues is categorized as some characteristics of a Good teacher. If parents need back ground checks to check on their child then apparently they shouldn’t have those children any way. Nobody is looking at the other children, they are worried about their own. Making excuses to isolate a child from their parent is unheard of. Whomever declared that it’s unlawful to observe their own child in the class needs Jesus, some laws shouldn’t be written.

  14. I currently have a full classroom of pre-teens 11 boys and 4 girls, 2 female paraprofessionals. My classroom is a Self-contained Moderate Support most students are behavioral, autism, SLD, and MID. My question is,”How often can a parent come into to observe a classroom”? I feel uncomfortable because she gives the behavioral students an evil look. I ask if she has any questions for me and she says no. She says she is there because her son has pointed out trouble makers and students who she said bully him during class breaks and in the locker room in PE. Please help.

  15. I have a medically fragile child that started kindergarten this year. I have been taking care of her medical needs as well as her learning/communication needs in class while they look for a nurse. I would like to stay with my daughter while in school. Do I as a parent of a medically fragile child have any say so if I wish to stay in school with her.

  16. I was told I have the final say in placement in Ok. is that true? I would like my daughter in 10 grade as she will be 16 this year she has been homeschooled and didn’t pass their placement test, but she didn’t study and I think would do fine after they reveiw.


    I had paid for an educational professional to observe my daughter’s current placement, and now the school district is requesting the report. What is the law that states the school district has the right to the report?
    Please let me know the district is being very confrontational regarding this matter. Thank you

  18. It’s an argument against public schools. Privacy takes a back-seat to the right of the parent to have access to one’s child. To deny a parent the right to enter the classroom and observe and verify the well-being and education of one’s child is far more egregious than seeing what other children are doing in the classroom. Teachers are important, but the true expert in a child’s education is the parent. My wife and I educated our child for 5 years before kindergarten, and we expect to be treated with the deference of veteran educators. There is no argument that can sufficiently explain why a parent should not be able to enter the classroom at any time to see one’s child, unless that parent has a criminal record.

  19. Continue…
    Upon agreement between the parent and the administrator, however, additional visits may be scheduled as needed. Parents guardians may contact the IDEA/504 Coordinator at xxx-xxxx for additional information regarding federal regulations. Parents cannot bring other children into the classroom. During the classroom period, cell phones must remain in the “off” position and are not allowed to be used.

  20. Liberty County School District in Hinesville GA adopted this policy in the Student Information and Code of Conduct Grades PK-12 in 2012 page 18 of the 2013-2014 manual: Only parents or legal guardians are allowed to observe in the classroom where the parent’s/guardians child is in attendance. Before an observation can occur, the parent/guardian must obtain 24-hour prior approval from a school administrator. Once approval is obtained, the administrator will arrange a date and time for the observation. The administrator will also arrange for school employee to escort the parent/guardian to the classroom and remain with them through the observation. Classroom observations are limited to 20 minutes and may be requested only once each semester unless federal regulations require different procedures.

  21. As a regular classroom teacher for 28 years, I find this discussion interesting. Parents are welcome to observe in my classroom but I ask that they give me notice first and tell me the time of day and how long they plan to be there. There are several reasons for this. First, I want the parent to see a typical day. If we are having an assembly or special project, all the kids will be excited and louder than normal. As for the time of day, there is no point in a parent coming to observe my class while their child is in P.E. and not in my room. As to the length of time, if the parent is going to be there for a few hours, I will have him/her work with a group of kids, including their child. I like the parent to see how their child relates to the other children in the class. Hope this provides a different perspective.

  22. As an experienced Educational Consultant and child/parent advocate, I would like to encourage parents to do their own observations of their children’s present and potential placements before the annual Review and development of IEP meetings.. I feel that it is an important part of their education in becoming knowledgeable as they advocate for their children. I would like to request that someone at wrightslaw construct a form for the 1st time that a parent observes a classroom for a special needs child. This form could be used as a guide to be further embellished as they gain experience and have specific areas the are concerned about.
    As always, thanks for all of the valuable insights and information you so generously share share with parents and professionals.


  23. My 9 year old is special needs & I walk him into his classroom daily & make him laugh , kiss him and tell him to have a wonderful day . I go out the door & blow him kiss through the glass window . Last Friday his teacher asked me to come outside before I kissed him goodbye & explained that I was not to come back into the classroom and that he would meet me at my car and take my son into class from now on. Then he said he would pick him up and take him by force if my son cried or wouldn’t go . I told him I didn’t want that he said he needed to brake his connection with me . Then gave me a parenting lecture . He then locked me out of the classroom while my son was crying at his seat pointing to his cheek for his kiss . I picked him up after school the teacher wrote a note that he was sad all morning !! Is this legal ? Help

  24. Can a parent videotape school district staff without their permission when they are providing services to their child?

    • Depends if there are other children in the room. If it’s just the staff member and your child, you probably can since the staff member is a public agent and has no expectation of privacy. However, if there are other children, you would need permission from the parents of the children present, and probably from the school and/or school board as well.

  25. Yesterday I received a newsletter from my son school stating that, Parents are welcome to eat lunch with their child. Teachers will then escort their students, only to the classrooms after lunch so that parents mat exit the building. All visitors in the building must registered in the office and receive a visitor’s pass. While here in the essence of safety, please do not talk with students other than your own. Parents will not be allowed to visit classrooms unless prior arrangements have been made. If you need to express a concern to your child’s teacher, please schedule a conference. We already no that, Teachers will not be able to meet with parents during instructional hours. That’s violation of the FERPA Law.

  26. sjones–
    I’mno lawyer, but hat sounds like a a giant FERPA violation to me. No parent should be allowed to see the paper of a student that is not their own child..

  27. Can a parent volunteering in a teacher’ room grade students’ paper? If it is a kindergarten classroom with only smile and sad face will that be acceptable for a parent. Now, this teacher only asked for those two faces on the paper. What is the law in this regard.

  28. I have been volunteering in all four of my children’s classes for the past 25 years ( I have children ages 6yrs. to 28yrs). I volunteer in my 6 year old son’s class (1st grade) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays every week. Last week the teacher suddenly said to me that she wanted me to drop my son at the door and not enter the classroom with him. She said too many parents are loitering around their children in the morning because they see me do it. I told her that I was not okay with the “drop off” thing. I come into the class with my son each day and stay for ten minutes until flag salute then leave. The teacher said I had no choice in this. I pulled my son and went to talk with the principal. The teacher literally left class and didn’t return for a week. Now she does not let me volunteer anymore. But other parents do. I am being singled out.

  29. Tony – WE were able to observe our children but had to request an appointment. WE could not just walk in unannounced. This worked out ok because our sons knew we were there and it did not disturb what or how they did their work and we saw the truth of what was going on.

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