Tape-recording IEP Meetings: What Does the Law Say?

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Does a teacher or service provider have the right to refuse to be recorded during an IEP meeting? Is there caselaw or code that deals with this?

An IEP meeting should focus on how to provide appropriate education to a child with a disability. There should be no conversation at an IEP meeting that cannot be repeated or taped.

We are not aware of any law about a teacher or parent’s right not to be recorded during an IEP meeting.

Federal law does not prohibit a parent or school official from recording IEP meetings. State departments of education or school districts can require, prohibit, limit, or regulate the use of recording devices at IEP meetings.

But, if a school has a policy that prohibits parents from recording meetings, that policy must include exceptions to ensure that parents understand the IEP.

The district must make exceptions if this policy interferes with a parent’s ability to participate in the IEP process.

  • If the policy prevents parents from participating in an IEP meeting
  • If both parents are unable to attend the meeting
  • Other factors that interfere with parental rights

Many states have language in their special ed regulations about their policy on audio- and videotaping.  Check  your state’s regulation about recording. Schools cannot record meetings while prohibiting parents from recording.

OSEP refers to Appendix A of the final regulations implementing the 1997
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 1997) as the Department’s current position regarding the audio or video tape recording of IEP meetings.

“Part B does not address the use of audio or video recording devices at IEP
meetings, and no other Federal statute either authorizes or prohibits the
recording of an IEP meeting by either a parent or a school official.”

See the OSEP policy letter (2003) and OSEP memorandum (1991) at

https://www2.ed.gov/policy/speced/guid/idea/letters/2003-2/redact060403iep2q2003.pdf

The OSEP memo cites cases where courts have held that parents have a right to tape record their child’s IEP meeting.

Re-edited from a post originally published 11/02/2009

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  1. I wanted to audiotape my child’s 504 since her father could not make the meeting and was told since not all parties consented I could not do so. We live in CA. Does the district have right of refusal?

  2. I indicated my intent to record my child’s Zoom IEP. I was told by the school district that it is not allowed because video recording is against privacy laws? I live in GA where we are a one party state so I didn’t even need to tell them I was recording but did to be nice. Can they tell me I can’t record a meeting?

  3. I know it is not a recording question, but can a parent request a copy of the notes from the IEP meeting?

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  5. Hello. I’m a special ed teacher from CA. After 18 years of teaching, I finally had an Amendment IEP with my first attorney who wanted the meeting recorded. I was taught in school by my professors that teachers had civil rights and could refuse to be recorded. My admistrator states otherwise. He sent me this website as evidence. What is the truth? Thank you.

    • You’ve conflated two distinct issues. You do have civil rights, and the IEP can absolutely be audio recorded and/ or transcribed. The two are not mutually exclusive of one another. I am guessing you likely intend a reasonable expectation of privacy and labor union protections (or even Garrity warnings) when you write “teachers had civil rights” in response to recorded IEP meetings. The IEP meeting is not your civil right or related labor right — it’s following federal law, the IDEA. Wrightslaw provides plain language context on recording but it does not provide “evidence” or “truth” as you say. It does point to authorities in the form of relevant federal statute and agency memoranda. The takeaway: an overt recording is not prohibited by federal law.

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  7. If the parent has a documented diagnosis that qualifies as a disability, such as ADHD, wouldn’t tape recording be a permissible reasonable accommodation under the ADA if its a public school?
    There is no state policy in my state regarding the use of recording devices.
    Additionally, what is the standard protocol on a parent providing documentation of a disability to the school admin. To enable use of reasonable accommodations? The parent is not an employee of the school or a student. What is considered reasonable vs. an undue hardship on the parent with the disability. I thought under ADA, a suspicion of disability is enough to request an accommodation. I’ve always been allowed to tape until recently.

  8. I’ve just received news from the school’s union (I work for the district as well as have a special needs child) that “if a request is made to record IEP meetings, everyone involved in that meeting must give their consent, and cannot be forced into attending if they do not wish to be recorded.” I’m puzzled by this news as I’ve always recorded my child’s IEP meeting. Please advise on the accuracy of the above and if the district is allowed to dictate the recording of IEP meetings as stated above.

    • Most states have a law on tape recording any conversation that applies to IEP meetings. Districts should have written policy on this that is based on the state law. Google tape-recording conversations in your state, & find your district policy on this to verify what they are telling you.

      • Hello, I have the same issue as Sue. I requested to tape record my son’s FBA meeting, he has an IEP. I entered the meeting alone with 8 school employees sitting across from me and was given a piece of paper from http://www.specialedconnection.com about tape recording meetings. They highlighted the area stating “Tape recordings of an IEP meeting as evidence in Due Process proceedings” but there was no reference to a direct statute or policy, just a quote stating, “the right of tape recording must be exercised in good faith by all parties…”. We were not in Due Process, nor do I even intend to going to Due process for an FBA meeting. But my question is the same as well. I live in Florida, and according to state law, privacy rights of public officials working in official capacity would not be viola

        • I suggest you tell them you will be recording, & start the recording. Then whatever they say about recording will be on tape. If they say you cannot, ask them the legal reference they are using.

  9. In NJ-Can the parents record via audio or video the school’s evaluations? Or even have a representative present?

  10. I’ve found it helpful to base my need to record on the way I process auditory input and a fairly high level of auditory ADD. Even without ADD, I think it helpful when receiving significant amounts of information from several different people in an arguably stressful situation to have a recording to review if necessary. I believe the strongest argument touches on the parent’s right/need to fully participate, e.g., one parent being absent. Seriously, if they don’t want me to record, any meeting will be slowed to a snail’s pace while I take notes verbatim.

  11. In NY, is it legal for a parent to tape record an annual review meeting without the CSE committee being aware of the meeting being recorded?

    • From Pete Wright – without regard to any particular state or federal law, except for law enforcement personnel, in general if someone records a meeting or a telephone call without knowledge of the other person, frequently it is not not admissible evidence in any litigation and it may be a crime committed by you. The question then is what would you be able to do with it? Quite possibly nothing!

      However, what I always told my clients, NEVER tape record someone without their knowledge, whether over the phone or face to face. When that person or others learn that you did that, (even those on your side of the fence), they will always wonder if you are taping their conversation with you and will always be cautious and distrustful of you.

      For a meeting, a better approach is to take detailed notes, when concepts/conclusions/agreements are discussed or reached, repeat it back to be sure you understand it clearly and, as you do that, write it out as best you can, word for word. (Or bring someone who can serve as your notetaker.) Then, after the meeting, write a nice thank you letter structured like our “letter to the stranger” at:

      (https://www.wrightslaw.com/advoc/articles/Letter_to_Stranger.html

      to the meeting chair and repeat your understanding, agreements reached, not reached, etc., in the letter.

      See also the file and numerous links in our “Paper Trails, Letter Writing & Documentation” webpage:

      https://www.wrightslaw.com/info/ltrs.index.htm

      For a telephone call, on occasion, I had my clients tape record just their side of the conversation so that all that could be heard on the recording were the words of my client such as:

      BEGIN

      “Let me be sure I understand, you just said you would arrange for a comprehensive evaluation and determination of eligibility of my child within 60 days.” 

      (Silence as we cannot hear the answer.) “Okay, I just looked at the calendar and 60 days from today would be by Monday, August 3. It was my understanding that the evaluation and determination of eligibility was 60 calendar days from your receipt of my written consent to evaluate, and I hand delivered that two weeks ago. Don’t you think we can complete this before the end of July?” 

      (Silence as other person responds.) “That’s great, so now we are looking at an eligibility meeting no later than the week of July 20 Many thanks. Is there anything further you need from me?” 

      (Silence as other person is responding.) “You have my email address, home and cell numbers, and I can also receive text on my cell, so I will wait to hear from Ms. Jones who I understand may be able to start the initial testing next week. I will keep our schedules clear, thanks again, bye.”

      END

      So know you have a recording of your side of the conversation. After the telephone call you follow up with a nice thank you letter for their moving the date forward and re-assert that you will keep your schedule and that of your child as clear as possible next week. 

      (My rule, that I preach in my day long training programs is that “If it is not in writing, it was not said!”) So the rule is that the agreement to evaluate and determine eligibility no later than the week of July 20 was never said, was never agreed to, because it was not in writing, it was only said, verbally. However the letter then locks it up, because it is now in writing, even if that writing is a nice letter from you.

      That letter becomes much more powerful evidence if they drop the ball and do not do the evaluation and determination of eligibility. If there is a subsequent due process hearing, then an additional exhibit would be your transcript of your side of the recording of the telephone call.

      However, if the case is based solely on a delay in the evaluation and determination of eligibility process, that would be a procedural issue and typically, if the procedural defect / error by the school district did not result in a loss of an educational opportunity and the child was not harmed, then it is a non-issue. See 20 USC Section 1415(f)(3)(E)(ii) and also footnote 141 at page 115 in our Wrightslaw: Special Education Law, 2nd Ed. book.

      Pete Wright

  12. The way I see it, if tape recording is the only way to ensure parent participation (one parent is available, one cannot get off of work to attend), I believe that recording is a perfect accommodation for the absent parent. That way, they are ensuring parent participation even though they apparently did not hold the meeting at a time or place that was convenient for the family. Since districts are allowed to record and call the recording part of the “educational record”, why then can a parent not do the same? It’s beneficial for all parties because the record is accurate and there is no more “he said, she said”.

    I simply put the recorder in the center of the table, press “record” and then say “I am recording this meeting so we have an accurate record on what is decided here today. This is part of x’s personal educational record. You are more than welcome to have a copy for his private record. If anyone has an issue with this, please let me know.” No one has EVER said no, as the tape was already running. Perhaps they didn’t want to be recorded expressing dissension?

    • Alicia: Did you check your state regulations for information about recording meetings? You can find them on the website for your state Department of Education. A link is here – on the Wrightslaw Yellow Pages for Kids. Scroll down to NY. http://www.yellowpagesforkids.com/help/seas.htm

      Use the contact email / phone number on that page if you need to contact someone at NYSED. When you have an answer – please share. We will post the information for others.

  13. We just had our Annual Review. He is on a stay put IEP since 2011 due to placement. We were told we could not talk about placement at this meeting. but at the end of the meeting the meeting leader said we are still proposing the same placement.
    I sent a letter to intent to record the meeting which they chose to record also. But everyone on my sons team that works with him on a daily basis refused to be recorded. Trust level has not been there for a long time but now this team just shot down any trust we had. it is so sad.

  14. Sixth Circuit has recently decided that a school district, by virtue of a collective bargaining agreement, has a policy preventing parents from tape recording IEP meetings. (The collective bargaining agreement does not address IEP meetings rather it discusses visits to the classroom). The case was decided on 3/11/11 and is captioned Glenn Horen v. Board of Education of the City of Toledo School Dist.

  15. case law no; SE-1992-2007 Toledo OH Impartial hearing officer rules: NO TAPING if school district says no

    • That gives the school special rights to say anything and do anything with no accountability. They can write summaries of the meeting that never happened, and have the summary checked by their law expert, before giving you a copy. Absolute power corrupts absolutely. Schools relish in being law experts at the expense of the caring parent, the guardian and protector of the child. And oh my word, if you have a non-speaking child, and they have someone who is your neighbor that feels threatened, (even though it may have never crossed your mind) they can convince every teacher to report a parent to CPS/DSS to malign that parents good name and character, never conference with you, and not allow you to have lunch with your child.

  16. The Pennsylvania crimes code makes the recording of a meeting wihout all parties approval a 3rd class felony. Please comment.

  17. One of the IEP members did not want to be tape recorded. I said that was fine but they had to find someone else to take their place with the same qualifications they had and they will consent to being tape recorded.

  18. I have advocated to clients/parents for several years to tape record their IEP/PPT meetings. I have also instructed the parents/clients to write and request copies of the district’s recordings. It has proven many times over that much of what was said in these meetings was either missed or required review for clarification.

    One regret I have is that I didn’t from the beginning have our district’s tapes transcribed. During our due process, it would have been very beneficial to do so. The cost in transcription would have been spread out over the course of a few years instead of a few months. Court appointed transcription in Connecticut is a costly affair.

  19. As long as you give written notice of intent to record, there should not be any problem. My favorite mantra when dealing with this type of issue is “policies are not laws”. I have had to remind district personell of this many times when presented with “questionable” policies. I ask for “laws, not policies” and they usually do not have any sort of response,

  20. FYI – This issue is currently before the 6th Circuit in Toledo Public Schools v. Horens. Fed. Judge James Carr ruled the school could stop parents from tape recording IEP meetings b/c a union contract between the district and the teachers’ union prohibited video/audio taping during a school visit without the teacher’s permission. Though Mrs. Horen is an attorney, and parents tried to find an attorney to represent them, no attorney would put themselves in front of Judge Carr (who hates pro se parents). The state of the law in this area now. – no tape recording. Parents are forced to try to fight this themselves in the 6th circuit – briefs due early December 2009.

  21. My school district said the 504 meeting would have to be rescheduled because they needed to have their own recording equipment, which wasn’t working at the time. But they didn’t disallow it.

    • If the school wants to reschedule, it often takes time to get everyone back together. If this happens again, offer to provide the school with a duplicate copy of your recording.

  22. We tape recorded our early IEP meetings and said “a friend suggested it to be free to listen and not have to get distracted trying to take good notes” – the idea was to put the district on notice that they were being recorded.

    The “friend” was our attorney who advised us on our rights. We were fortunate that we never had to mention that we had been advised by an attorney. Maybe the district sensed we knew our rights by our actions and words, but it isn’t always that easy.

    Jon Singer

    ………………………………………………………
    Drive For Rebecca, Inc.
    Building better lives for individuals with autism (TM)
    Download free excerpts now from
    The Special Needs Parent Handbook
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  23. I think in California, we can’t record people without their permission. I doubt they would give their permission but I sure would like to record the next IEP…..

    • in California no permission is needed. You must in writing notify them 24 hours in advance. IEPs are so involved and theres so many of the school staffs presence, this gives me the opportunity to be a thorough as necessary. I never sign IEPs until i take them home, in a calmer atmosphere, go over it, call SELPA if i have questions, then sign it.

  24. On July 27, 2009, the OCR wrote regarding the high school not allowing us to tape a re-evaluation meeting: “This VDOE regulation was silent as to whether re-evaluation meetings may be recorded by either the parent(s) or school.”

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