Parent Observations v. Student Confidentiality
When a school administrator takes this position, it creates an appearance of two things and both are bad:
(1) that the program is clearly not appropriate and the parent will quickly discover this, and
Many parents say they have problems with school administrators who refuse to allow them to observe their child's classroom or a proposed placement. By taking this position, administrators create an atmosphere of secrecy and mistrust.
OSEP Letter to Mamas (05/26/04) states:
Parent Participation in Child's Education
New Policies & Procedures Limit Parent Observations
December 2012: Chuck from Texas writes -
I believe this topic needs to be updated. I see more schools putting policies and procedures in place to limit parent observations.
These procedures include:
In some cases, the school will not allow observations during instructional time.
In one case, the school required the "observation" take place after the students left.
The school says the rationale behind the policies is the need to limit disruption to instructional time. State regulations address disruptions. Attorneys tell schools that this is easier to defend.
Hi, Chuck. You wrote, "I believe this topic needs to be updated." I agree but where would you start?
I think these “policies” are developed by administrators who want to limit parent contact and parental involvement. I’m not aware of any law that supports them.
Parents report that they are not allowed to observe or visit their child’s classroom, or they must agree to stringent limits (e.g. 30 minutes once a month after notice xx weeks in advance).
Parents are told that “the law” requires schools to deny parent requests to observe their child’s class because this would violate the rights of other students. The only law that deals with confidentiality is Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). FERPA regulates education records, nothing more.
Parents report that paper is taped over glass windows in doors of special ed classes to “protect student privacy.” Parents report that they are not allowed to attend school events (e.g. holiday parties, field trips) because this would violate the privacy rights of other students.
Are the parents of non-disabled kids having the same problems? I don’t think so, but don’t know so.
Bottom line: Courts have held that school children have very few “privacy rights.” Children with disabilities do not have greater privacy rights than nondisabled kids.
From my perspective, these policies are at odds with IDEA’s requirements re: parental participation – or the spirit of the law. NCLB also includes requirements about increasing parental participation, not discouraging or forbidding it.
Since there is no legal justification for these policies, where to start?
Note: Congress has reauthorized the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the statute formerly known as No Child Left Behind. The new statute, Every Student Succeeds Act, was signed into law by President Obama on December 10, 2015.
Parent Observation in the Classroom? Yes! Read what ESSA says about Parental Involvement and Parent and Family Engagement - Section 8101 Definitions and Section 1116.
Parent Involvement Policies in NCLB
Schools that receive Title I funds must meet with parents to develop a parental involvement policy and must distribute the policy to parents and the community.
Parents of children who attend Title I schools shall have access to school staff, opportunities to participate in the child's class, and to observe classroom activities. (20 U.S.C. § 6318)