Are you the parent of a child with a learning disability or autism who
would like to observe their school classroom? Have you been told by
special education personnel, that you cannot observe your child’s
classroom? This article will teach you about what is allowed under
law, about school observations. By going to your child’s classroom and
observing, you can ask for any changes that you believe your child
needs. This will help your child receive an appropriate education.
School personnel may state that you cannot observe because of the
children’s confidentiality; this is untrue. The Supreme Court ruled in
Owasso Independent School District v. Falvo (534 US 426 2002) that
confidentiality of other students can’t be used as a reason to deny
observation by a parent. They established that, students have no
expectation of privacy.
Special Education personnel may deny you from observing your child’s
placement because of FERPA (the Federal Education Rights and Privacy
Act). FERPA does not prevent observation by parents or their
professional representatives. FERPA only protects written records.
If your school district states that parent observations violate HIPPA,
they are incorrect. HIPPA is for medical records, and in most
cases does not apply to school districts.
In my opinion, parents do have a right to observe the current
and proposed placement of their child. This is because parents
have a right to “meaningfully” participate in determining their
child’s IEP and placement. These rights were up held in 2 court
cases (Honig v. Doe 1988, and Burlington School Committee v.
Mass Dept. of Education (1985). Parents have unique knowledge
of their child, and they should be able to observe in the classroom.
If your school district continues to assert, that you have no right to
observe your child’s current or proposed placement, ask by what
authority are they stating this. Also ask for proof in writing, of
whatever authority they are using. Take what they send you, and file
for a formal state complaint. Parents have the right to be an “equal
participant” in their child’s education. If you are prevented from
observing, then you will be denied your “right” to be an equal
Classroom observations are extremely important for parents to do, as
often as they are able. Things can be going on that you are not aware
of, classroom observations bring these to light. Then you will be able
to use the information to fight for educational changes that your child requires.