In my state, it is illegal to record people without their permission. Is there an exception for students with disabilities who need to record class lectures for education purposes?
Many students with disabilities have difficulty with listening, focus, processing, note-taking, etc. Recording a class would be a reasonable accommodation for these students.
If you are a high school student with a disability who has an IEP, the IEP Team is required to consider your unique needs and challenges and write any necessary accommodations in the IEP.
IDEA 2004 also requires that the IEP team consider a student’s need for assistive technology.
Many students use assistive technology in class when they need accommodations for listening and note-taking. The LiveScribe pen (a digital recording device) is commonly used for this purpose.
You’ll find more information about this in the blog post Assistive Technology for the Struggling Notetaker at https://www.wrightslaw.com/blog/assistive-technology-for-the-struggling-notetaker/
Right to Privacy in the Classroom
In this article from 2011 in Queen Anne County, MD, teacher’s found there’s “no such thing as private speech in a public school classroom,” when a teacher brought privacy concerns about using Livescribe pens in special ed classrooms to the School Board.
Tyson Bennett, a sped lawyer for the school board noted “several cases in which judges have ruled that what transpires in a classroom is not private speech.”
Bennett did not cite the case, but said, “When an Illinois special education teacher objected to her class being recorded in 2007 the U.S. District Court there ruled against her. The decision, which upheld those in two previous cases, was that “teachers have no reasonable expectation of privacy in communicating in their classrooms.”
Below is the Federal District Court ruling in Plock v. Board of Education of Freeport School District No. 145, 545 F.Supp.2d 755, 758 (N.D.Ill.2007).
A classroom in a public school is not the private property of any teacher. A classroom is a public space in which government employees communicate with members of the public. There is nothing private about communications which take place in such a setting. Any expectations of privacy concerning communications taking place in special education classrooms such as those subject to the proposed audio monitoring in this case are inherently unreasonable and beyond the protection of the Fourth Amendment.
In Plock (2009), a Court of Appeals ruled on the “conversation” between students and teachers in a special education classroom under the Eavesdropping Act.
Today, in Queen Anne County schools, Livescribe smart pens are used as instructional technology in classrooms.
Smartpens Help Students with Disabilities
For post secondary students with disabilities, Section 504 covers your right to reasonable accommodations to ensure full participation in educational programs and activities.
You will find examples of colleges and universities nationwide that approve smartpens as a perfect accommodation for students – they also provide the pen.
Your state and/or your school may have specific guidelines for recording class lectures. If you are in post-secondary education, contact the Disability Services office at your school for more information or assistance.