According to a federal court in the District of Columbia, IDEA does not guarantee parents a right of observation of their child in the classroom. Nor does it guarantee that attorneys representing the parent can observe. This arose in T.M. v. District of Columbia, a case decided on December 3, 2014, and reported by SpecialEdConnection at 64 IDELR 197.
The parents’ argument in this case was based on the notion that IDEA guarantees parents the right to participate in the IEP process in a meaningful way. It also gives parents the right to an IEE (Independent Education Evaluation) if they disagree with an evaluation done by the school. But the court noted that “the statute is silent on the issue of parental observations.” The opinion goes on to say that “In the absence of any authority to the contrary, IDEA does not guarantee parents the right to observe on request. Thus, [the school district’s] decision not to allow T.M.’s parents and attorney to observe when requested was not a denial of FAPE.”
This court decision is consistent with OSEP’s view on the matter. In Letter to Savit, (February 10, 2014) OSEP says “the IDEA and its implementing regulations do not provide a general entitlement for third parties, including attorneys and educational advocates, to observe children in their current classrooms or proposed educational placements.”
Keep in mind that just because parents do not have the legal right under IDEA to observe in the classroom does not mean that schools must prohibit them from doing so. Most schools permit classroom observation, subject to reasonable rules about frequency, duration and confidentiality. The key is to be consistent and fair about this, with a set of rules that apply to all parents.
What if the parent is obtaining an IEE, and the evaluator wants to do a classroom observation? We will address that issue tomorrow, so check in with the Dawg again then!
DAWG BONE: IDEA DOES NOT GUARANTEE PARENTS OR LAWYERS THE RIGHT TO OBSERVE IN THE CLASSROOM.