Parent Observation in the Classroom? Yes!

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To paraphrase Jane Austen… it is a truth universally acknowledged that parental involvement supports positive student outcomes.

But does ‘parental involvement’ extend to parents coming into the school to observe their child in his or her school setting?

The answer is yes! 

A parent’s right to observe his or her child during the school day is supported by federal law.  This applies to all students, in regular and special education alike.

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), currently reauthorized as the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), states:

Section 8101 Definitions

(39) PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT- The term ‘parental involvement’ means the participation of parents in regular, two-way, and meaningful communication involving student academic learning and other school activities, including ensuring —

(A) that parents play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning;

(B) that parents are encouraged to be actively involved in their child’s education at school;

(C) that parents are full partners in their child’s education and are included, as appropriate, in decision making and on advisory committees to assist in the education of their child;

(D) the carrying out of other activities, such as those described in Section 1116.

Section 1116 Parent and Family Engagement


[…] each school served under this part shall jointly develop with parents for all children served under this part a school-parent compact. […] Such compact shall —

(2) address the importance of communication between teachers and parents on an ongoing basis through, at a minimum —

(A) parent-teacher conferences in elementary schools, at least annually, during which the compact shall be discussed as the compact relates to the individual child’s achievement;

(B) frequent reports to parents on their children’s progress; and

(C) reasonable access to staff, opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s class, and observation of classroom activities [boldface added]; and

(D) ensuring regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and school staff, and to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.


Sophie lives in upstate New York, and is the parent of a child with Tourette Syndrome.  You can find her on the web at, New York – Special Education Action Network.

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[…] Education Act (IDEA) and Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires schools to allow parents to schedule a formal class observation visit. These federal laws mandate that parents have the right to schedule an observation as part of their […]

08/26/2021 11:39 pm

This was my experience. School said since Covid guidelines I would not be able to walk my son to class. I asked to be contact be the principal. She called me and I told her of the ESSA code. She asked me “are you wanting to observe the teach to determine the effectiveness of her teaching and duties?” My answer, absolutely. She replied saying that that’s out of the question and that was her job! Hah! “No ma’am, I will decide what’s acceptable teaching for my own son and I don’t need your permission to do so.” I then asked her if she was aware of ESSA code. She blew by the question and said she would talk to her “higher ups” to confirm what I was saying. 10 min later I received an email from her saying that I could come and observe.

12/03/2020 2:22 pm

I think that we should leave our children to have privacy. This is an invasion of privacy! Anyone else???

12/04/2020 1:46 pm
Reply to  Debra

No its not. I have observed my child’s class and needed to do this because I want to make sure he is getting what he needs. Parents of non-disabled kids need to understand that. I have a right to observe. I am not trying to violate any one’s privacy. I just need to make sure my son is getting what he needs.

01/22/2021 1:47 pm
Reply to  Debra

Invasion of privacy? Maybe if they were adults but then they would be on their own. Not all children may need observation but we as parents are responsible for what our children learn. Also, it is not only our children that need observation but the school. Do you trust the government school system to teach your children the difference between what is right or wrong? Schools today are just not the same. As a student years ago I did not see the need for parental observation. Today there are full-time police officers, multiple principles specializing in discipline and behavior problems, fully fenced campuses, and so much beaurocracy the teachers don’t have time to teach. The students see all this as “normal”. I see a much bigger problem. It is past time for parents to get involved.

10/11/2021 10:08 am
Reply to  Jeff

If you want to be responsible for what your child learns, I suggest you homeschool- then you have full control and no concerns. Public education is a privilege; not an inherent right build into the Constitution. Let’s not forget that.

05/09/2021 11:02 am
Reply to  Debra

Are you kidding? Children have the right to engage with an adult, not a parent or relative, in privacy without the observation of a parent or relative? I don’t know how you can logically support this.

Last edited 5 months ago by Paul
05/13/2021 1:58 am
Reply to  Debra

Ummm, no. I’m sure this is not the most popular train of thought, but I know what ‘privacy’ does. YOU are what is called the PARENT. This implies a position of authority and leadership. It is a position in which you are the person to guide the child in right and wrong and learning to be responsible.
At home, practice that give them privacy if you feel they need it, but most kids don’t even like the idea until they’re older anyway. But in a public situation, especially in schools where so many stories hit the news of children as young as 9 committing suicide because of bullying, of teacher’s sexual relationships with the students, there’s no such thing as privacy in my kids vocab. Plus, privacy is NOT a right.

10/11/2021 10:10 am
Reply to  Sierra

Nor is public education. If you have time to go in and watch your child, it sounds like you have time to homeschool.

09/15/2020 12:17 pm

I am reading the law which was redone in Dec 2015 and I do not find this language. Anyone else?

08/05/2020 4:06 pm

What about during Covid. Our schools are saying no one, in however to my knowledge that is simply policy NOT law. If I am observing with with proper face coverings and following hand washing and distance guidelines, can I still be denied?

08/07/2020 11:25 am
Reply to  Kati

Yes, this is policy, but based on the policy you can be denied. Read the policy. Sometimes it allows observations under certain circumstances, and you can appeal the decision thru the district complaint process.

01/22/2021 2:00 pm
Reply to  Chuck

Policy does not supercede law, it may delay the execution of it. It is sad that it takes additional extensive action for the parents who care about their kids and the law. The majority of parents allow schools to be full-time care takers of their children and never question the law or process…..and we wonder why millineals think the way they do. Parenting is absolutely the hardest work I’ve ever done and after 5 children I still don’t know what I’m doing.

01/25/2021 3:07 pm
Reply to  Jeff

Jeff, you are correct. But I am not aware of any federal law/rule that gives parents of kids with disabilities the right to observe. I believe that Title 1 rules require some amount of observation, but I am not clear how that might apply to a student at a Title 1 campus or district who is not Title 1 eligible. TX law allows schools to limit or stop observations. Hope you are able to observe your child.

01/22/2021 1:55 pm
Reply to  Kati

This happened to me today. I told the administrator Covid may be an inconvenience but it is not a reason to deny access to my son that needs attention the school has not been able to provide. We had a civil conversation but I left with the school knowing I would use all legal avenues if need be. The law if Federal not State. The politicizing of Covid has already gone too far. I’ll try to let everyone know what happens.

04/01/2021 5:29 pm
Reply to  Jeff

I’ve put my request in writing today to observe my child. He is in the EBD room and recently has been moved out most of the day for co-taught classes. We are seeing serious behaviors. Could be the schedule change, puberty, medicine change or all three. They are ‘checking’ into it but with Covid, the answer will most likely be no. Any advice? We have our annual IEP at the end of April. I’m citing that I need to see what is happening to help figure out his triggers so I can not only help him at home but so that I can give appropriate feed back to the team at our meeting.

04/02/2021 1:51 pm
Reply to  Kati

I was denied the option to observe him in class citing Covid, even though all staff has been vaccinated and I was willing to follow all protocol. Our governor is even lifting many of the Covid policies he put in place, such as large gatherings.
Any advice?

05/13/2021 2:32 am
Reply to  Kati

Write a complaint to the state board of education? Did you request this from the school directly? If the denied you, request it from the BOE. Explain your willingness to abide by health systems they may have in place and include somewhere how you ‘assume that since the Governor is lifting these mandates it won’t be a problem, especially in light of the fact that the request is based on your concern for your child’s health, both physical and mental’. It is NOT the school’s job to check into either of those things, it is yours. If they continue to block it, go to the state DOE, then the U.S. DOE. It might also help to check resources for his condition on sites like NAMI.

05/13/2021 2:07 am
Reply to  Jeff

I would love to hear what you find out, Jeff, if you don’t mind. I’m under the impression lately that schools are doing MORE to keep parents out of school ‘business’ than to allow them access, and I’m not happy with ANY government supported entity blocking access of p parents to children. There was a school somewhere telling parents they were not allowed to observe their child participating in computer classes that were live. If my child is in my house, at my table I’m going to say I know what they can do with their demand or policy

12/27/2019 4:06 pm

Do you think observing your child in the classroom has given an accurate picture/experience of their day/day experience or was it more a distraction to your child and/or teacher (since they see you in the classroom)? Thanks in advance

01/22/2021 2:04 pm
Reply to  Teresa

Probably not. It does establish a foundation in the students mind that may not be understood for years. Observing does show the school teachers and administrators which parents are involved. It also keeps the school in check in case there are any rogue teachers or improper curriculum.

12/10/2019 10:05 pm

What are the laws/stipulations regarding family members visiting the classroom; aunts, uncle, godparents?

12/11/2019 4:57 pm
Reply to  Michelle

Typically states do not have law or rules on this, so it is up to districts to develop policy on this. Check your district’s policy on this. It is not uncommon for campuses to not follow district policy.

11/27/2019 12:33 am

Good evening. After reading these comments it seems that district policy can trump federal law? Or was this post an interpretation of the law that is not something parents can use to advocate?

11/27/2019 2:23 pm
Reply to  Nicole

There is no federal rule about parents observing at school, so states can develop rules, and districts can develop policies. States and schools are addressing areas that federal law & rules do not address. This happens in many areas of special ed.

01/22/2021 2:10 pm
Reply to  Nicole

Unfortunately, the law is always written to be interpreted politically. Thank God for salvation by Grace and NOT the Law. This is where the judicial system would get involved if required.

11/26/2019 9:51 am

What about the rights of the other disabled students in the class? Don’t they have a right to privacy concerning their particular disabilities? If a parent is observing their child, there is nothing stopping them from making judgements about other students and spreading them outside the school with other parents. As a teacher, I’m not going to sit and explain to a parent why certain students behave the way they do, it’s not their business.

01/22/2021 2:23 pm
Reply to  Stephanie

That is a valid question. I see the potential complications for sure. These are the challenges of living in a free thinking country where everyone has rights. When rights of some impede the legitimate rights of others who determines the outcome? Parents who observe classes should do just that. Any issues of concern during the observation should be brought up to an administrator at a later time. A teacher should not have to explain anything. Parents should actually give all teachers the benefit of doubt if for no other reason than being in a carrier teaching MY kids. What goes on in the classroom IS the parents business if their child is in it.

11/07/2019 1:49 pm

Do I have a legal right to observe my child during an evaluation for services?

11/07/2019 4:43 pm
Reply to  Justin

having a parent in the room during testing invalidates the testing process as the tests would be administered against the format they have been standardized in. Scores would not be valid if standardization is broken.

10/02/2019 1:11 pm

Can I observe my child outside at recess? He is having alot of trouble at this time. So I wanted to observe. I did so and what I saw was disgusting. I watched the teachers not watching certian spots of playground for minutes at end even facing in the opposite direction. My child ACTUALLY left the fenced yard through an opening and was on steps for a few moments within 20 feet insight of teachers who were talking. I also witnessed 5 other boys fighting ,punching kicking etc. This was happening for about 4 mins and teachers were talking. I want to call the board but am afraid if I do so i may broken a rule to request permission to observe.

10/03/2019 6:52 am
Reply to  Michelle

Start with the principal and inform him/her that the students are not being supervised at recess. Unfortunately, too often, teachers think recess is their social time when really they are still responsible for supervising children.

09/27/2019 9:45 am

Is it legal for the school to require that I give them a 24-hour notice before I can visit my child’s classroom?

09/30/2019 2:18 pm
Reply to  Elizabeth

It is very likely that it is. Some districts require even notice, & some put even more restrictions on visits or do not allow them. Your parent training and information center should know the state rules.

09/02/2019 7:38 pm

Is limiting parental observation of classroom “reasonable” if the school requires parents to give 2 week notification prior, requires escort by the principal, is limited to 2 observations per school year and 30 minutes per visit? How does this provide any picture of what is really going on when your special needs child is terrified to go to school?

08/26/2019 10:29 am

I tried to shadow my child at school today and was only allowed 10 mins supervised visit then told that I wasn’t allowed to shadow my child without the permission of the principal is this true need all the info I can get please

08/26/2019 1:24 pm
Reply to  Mchelle

Your state probably allows the district to develop policy about parent observations. Obtain a copy of the district policy on observation from the district website or central office. You can determine if they are following the district policy.

06/11/2019 5:24 pm

Although federal law supports parent observations, especially if the child is non-verbal and cannot express what happens in school with his/her program, more and more schools in Wisconsin tell parents and us (Disability Rights Wisconsin) that they do not have to allow parent observations because the IDEA doesn’t specifically grant parents the right to observe. They also use violation of FERPA as a reason to bar parents from observing their child in the special education classroom.

01/20/2019 3:18 pm

My child’s school is Title 1 school. The school policies are “request a visit 24 hours prior to the principal” ” the principal May approve or May Not” “If a visit is approved, the principal is accompanied with parents” “it is up to his decisions”

They will definitely stage everything in advance because it happened before. The door is locked all the time too. Since parents have seen that there are not enough staff now, they prevent parents from pop ups. Is there any laws override the school policies due to safety concerns?

01/03/2019 9:44 pm

While maybe not ideal, has anyone heard of forbidding parents from observing the special education evaluation process if their child is being evaluated for an IEP?

01/07/2019 9:25 am
Reply to  Sandy

I have heard of parents being able to observe through a one-way window, but having a parent in the room during the testing can alter the child’s performance.

10/02/2019 2:48 pm
Reply to  lourdes

When my kids were younger at pre-school, a one way window was always available to parents, teachers, etc. The teacher and I were observing through the one way window one morning at the school and witnessed a young student teacher look disgusted when my very active child and another active child joined the group. The teacher addressed the incident as the student teacher’s body language was also very obvious. Teachable moments can be everlasting. For that student teacher, she learned that working with young kids was frustrating for her and she got caught. My children thrived in that school as there were many checks and balances.

11/11/2018 7:53 pm

If a parent gives written permission for the grandmother to sit in class and observe her grand child because the school is calling multiple times to her daughter on her job. Can a grandparent sat in and observe the grandchild’s behavior? Would the leave no child behind rule be in effect.

11/14/2018 3:37 pm
Reply to  Linda

It will depend on the district or campus policy on observations. Your strongest position is that the child is to receive an appropriate education, & this is not happening if they are calling often. Your state parent and training project can give you information on the school’s responsibilities and how to deal with this.

10/24/2018 9:51 pm
A 3 minute youtube clip where I went in front of the school board and mention the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. More so to it, I mentioned Title 20 USCS § 6318, as so far, I’ve been denied being able to go into my sons classroom and observe what he is doing. This has been a daunting task to say the least.