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Can My Advocate Observe My Child in Class?


Q: “Can our advocate observe my son in the classroom? The school denied my request and said, ‘only the parent can observe.’ ”

A: Not true! Read on…

Members of the IEP Team

The parents and school decide who they want to be on the IEP team, aside from the required members. IDEA allows you to invite individuals who have knowledge or special expertise about your child to be part of the IEP team meeting.

  • You decide who meets these criteria.

  • You may invite related services providers, independent educational professionals, including consultants, advocates, and tutors to be part of the team.

  • You may invite a friend or family member.

  • There is no requirement that you may only invite professionals.

  • NO law prohibits people (other than school staff and the parent) from observing the child in the classroom. Ref: IDEA 34 C.F.R. Section 300.321(c)

Effective Team Members Need Information

To be an effective team member, your advocate may need to do a classroom observation of your son. Observations in the classroom and in other settings provide valuable information about your child’s ability to learn.

Addressing the Problem

Was your request for observation a written request? Always make sure your requests, issues, and concerns are in writing. If the school persists in this position, you need to write a polite letter to the school. Use your letter to document what you want to do, and what you were told by staff.

Parent Observation in the Classroom

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.

Observations v. Student Confidentiality

Q: "Do I have a right to observe the class before agreeing (or not agreeing) to a placement for my child? The special ed director said I cannot observe the class because of confidentiality rights of the other children."

A: When a school administrator takes this position, it creates an appearance of two things and both are bad: that the program is clearly not appropriate and the parent will quickly discover this, and (2) that the school is attempting to keep important information from parents. Many Hearing Officers and Administrative Law Judges would view the refusal to allow the parent to observe as grounds to find that the proposed placement was not appropriate. The U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Owasso v. Falvo reiterated that public school students have no expectation of privacy.

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 No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), states:

  • Section 9101 (32) 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 —

  • that parents play an integral role in assisting their child’s learning;

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

  • 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;

  • the carrying out of other activities, such as those described in Section 1118.

  • Section 1118 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 —

  • 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;

  • frequent reports to parents on their children’s progress; and

  • reasonable access to staff, opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s class, and observation of classroom activities.

Article reprinted with permission, The Wrightslaw Way 2016

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