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Shannon:  I live in New York State and work with families of children with disabilities. I have just learned the school district is requesting parents to get background checks to be able to volunteer and observe their child’s classroom. Is this legal? Parents are expected to pay the $99.00 fee associated with these background checks. Please help

  1. Shannon, that is not kosher. Here’s what to do about it: in NY State, a special ed parent can call their Special Education Quality Assurance Regional Associate to express a concern such as this. If the associate shares the parent’s concern, she will contact your district’s director of special education to ask some pointed questions and provide guidance. If this doesn’t resolve things, the parent can file a written complaint with SEQA. See http://www.p12.nysed.gov/specialed/quality/

  2. Shannon –

    This is a tough question that may best be answered by your state Dept of Education.

    It’s likely legal for the school to charge for background checks for volunteers. But charging when the access involves classroom observations may be a problem.

    Does NY special education law provide parents with a specific right to classroom observations? If yes, then its likely illegal to charge parents when they try to access this right.

    If not, the fee may still be a problem. IDEA does not provide parents with an absolute right to observations, but the federal Dept of Education has recognized that sometimes access the classroom may be necessary. Again, it’s probably best to contact your state DOE.

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