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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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.


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?


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?


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.


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.


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.

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.