IDEA Parents Visiting the School

Sometimes parents of students with disabilities would like to visit the school

and observe their children. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

(“IDEA”) expanded parent’s roles in the identification, evaluation, and

placement of their child. The IDEA does not, however, give parents a general

entitlement to observe their children at the school, although school districts

and parents are encouraged to work together and there may be some

circumstances where access may need to be provided. Generally, the

parents are still able to be full and equal participants in developing the

Individualized Education Program (“IEP”) without observation, except in

those circumstances where access may need to be provided such as when

the right to an independent educational evaluation has been invoked.

There has been a focus on what other ways the parents are being included in

their child’s education to determine whether the parent should have been

allowed to observe. In Bd. Of Ed. Of the Carmel Central School Dist., 48

IDELR 144 (2007), a special education student’s parent received services

through the IDEA and requested to observe the student for a full school day

in order to prepare for their annual review. The school denied the request.

The parent then requested to observe two classes back to back, in order to

both observe the classes and the student walking between classes. The

school denied this request but offered the opportunity to observe one class

of the school’s choice. A written test was given during the class so the

parent felt that the observation was useless.

After the annual review, the parent filed a due process complaint stating that

she needed to observe the student to evaluate the environment, student’s

skills, and safety. The hearing officer found that there was no statutory or

regulatory right to observe the student in class and that the school had

discretion in whether to grant observation. The hearing officer did direct the

school to allow the parent to observe one class period where there is

instruction however.

The parent appealed the decision to the New York State Educational Agency

stating that the restrictions on her observation by the hearing officer are a

procedural violation of IDEA. The Agency held that parents must be given an

opportunity to participate in developing their student’s IEP, but that does not

give a general entitlement to observe the student. The Agency also stated

that schools and parents should work together in order to meet their needs.

The parent was generally able to have her questions answered and received

regular progress and report cards so her ability to participate in developing

the student’s IEP was not significantly hindered.

Hearing officers and educational agencies have stated many times that a

parent does not have an unlimited right to observe their child in school. See

In re: Student with a Disability, 43 IDELR 214 (2005); Letter to

Mamas, 42 IDELR 10 (2004). Parents do have the right to be provided with

an opportunity to meaningfully participate in identification, evaluation and

educational placement of their child however. Districts and parents are then

encouraged to work together to meet both of their needs which may include

allowing observations.

If a District would like to deny a parent of a special education student’s

request to observe the student, the District should consider in what other

ways the parent is able to participate in the student’s education. The parent

should still have an opportunity to meaningfully participate in developing the

student’s IEP, and educational plan. The District should also consider how

they could work with the parents to meet both their needs.

Another concern about refusing to allow parents to observe is that the

parent may claim that the denial is in retaliation for the parent’s advocacy.

One of the best defenses to this claim would be to consistently enforce the

district’s visitor policy. This policy should limit the number and duration of

visits as well as be widely publicized.

If you have questions regarding parental observations, we recommend that

you consult with your school district’s attorney or call Karen, Steve or