Parents often ask me whether they are allowed to record their child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) team meeting. Here in Connecticut, an IEP meeting is referred to as the Planning and Placement Team meeting (PPT) in which to discuss the child’s IEP. To fully answer this question, we will first examine what the law in the state of Connecticut says about whether or not you can record a PPT / IEP meeting. After that, we will briefly discuss strategy and recommendations on recording an IEP meeting.
In Connecticut, there are two court decisions that rule parents have the right to record a PPT / IEP meeting. The court decisions are E.H. v. Tirozzi, 735 F. Supp. 53 (D. Conn. 1990) and T.S. v. Ridgefield Bd. of Ed., 131 F.R.D. 654 (D. Conn. 1990). Both decisions are referenced in a June 4, 2003 letter issued by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP), which states their position on audio recording an IEP meeting.
In the first case, the court held that a parent, whose native language is other than English and has difficulty understanding English, has the right to tape record her child’s IEP meeting. In the second case, the court held that based on the parent’s own disability, the parent has the right to record the IEP meeting. In addition, in the second case, one of the two parents had a scheduling conflict and was not available to make the PPT / IEP meeting and requested a verbatim record to better understand what transpired.
It is important to highlight the court recognized the mother’s right to record her child’s PPT/IEP meeting in its entirety, including “over the objection of any member” of the planning and placement school team. E.H v. Tirozzi, 735 F. Supp at 57 (emphasis added). The court provided that under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), the Act is designed to help implement the individualized education plan (IEP) for the educational benefit of the child with a disability and the child’s parents. Under the IDEA, the parents are both an essential and equal member of the planning and placement team to help develop their child’s IEP. Thus, if the parents have difficulty understanding what is taking place at their child’s IEP meeting, they are effectively being deprived of one of the procedural safeguards under the IDEA, which is to participate and effectively evaluate their child’s IEP with the planning and placement team. A recording of the meeting allows the parents to go home and review what was said at the meeting again and again so that they may more fully assist in the development of their child’s IEP. Id. The court further held that the refusal from members of the school team to be recorded does not outweigh the legitimate and substantial interests under the IDEA of ensuring the parents right to meaningful participation in the PPT meeting. Id. at 58.
Strategy and Recommendations
As a practical matter as well as professional courtesy, if you do plan on recording your child’s PPT / IEP meeting, I strongly recommend you inform the school team, in writing, of your intention to do so in advance of the meeting. First, in the spirit of being collaborative and supportive with your child’s school team, you do not want to be perceived as being sneaky or secretive about recording the meeting. This is especially true if the matter goes to due process before an impartial hearing officer. Second, by providing the school team with advance notice, time will neither be delayed nor wasted on the day of the PPT / IEP meeting with the school team trying to find or locate an official school recording device to preserve their record. Lastly, even if your local education agency or school district has a policy in place (most do not) that limits or prohibits a parent’s right to record the PPT / IEP proceedings, there must be exceptions to that policy to ensure that the parent is able to understand the proceedings, which include a parent’s right to understand and participate at the PPT / IEP meeting, parent availability to attend, and other intellectual or physical factors that may interfere with a parent’s right to fully and equally understand and participate in the development of their child’s IEP.
For more information about recording a PPT / IEP meeting, call 203-257-7999 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule an appointment with special education lawyer and certified child advocate, attorney Jeffrey Forte of Forte Law Group LLC.