School Board Recording Policies
Missouri is a one-party consent recording state, meaning that only one person in a conversation needs to know that the conversation is being recorded for it to be legal to record. Yet the large majority of Missouri schools prohibit parents and guardians from recording meetings related to special education, including their children's IEP and 504 meetings. Missouri School Board Association's recommended policy which has been adopted by school districts including Columbia, Springfield, Joplin, Independence, and more districts:
The Board of Education prohibits the use of audio, visual or other recording devices at meetings held pursuant to the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) or Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, as well as other meetings among district employees and between district employees and parents/guardians. Exceptions to this prohibition will be made only in accordance with Board policy and law. Requests for such exceptions must be made within a reasonable period of time prior to the scheduled meetings. This prohibition does not apply to conversations held within view of district security cameras.
The district prohibits secretive recordings where persons involved do not consent to the recording and it is not otherwise obvious that recording equipment is present or being used, unless the superintendent or designee determines in rare circumstances that such recordings are necessary for educational or security reasons. The district prohibits the simultaneous electronic transmission of any conversation by any person to a third party without the consent of all involved in the conversation, even if the conversation is not recorded.
CoMO SEPTA (Columbia Special Ed PTA) is working to get policy change within Columbia Public Schools. We are supporting their efforts, while at the same time exploring ways that we can make sure families throughout the state are able to record their students' IDEA related meetings including IEP and Section 504 meetings. Follow their efforts to on Facebook.
Why do parents want to record IEP and 504 meetings?
The reason is different for every family. For many, it is a combination of reasons.
The meeting belongs to the student. It should be up to the parent to decide if the meeting should be recorded.
IEP and 504 meetings can be confusing, emotional, and long. Parents need to be able to go back and listen to the comments related to decisions made at the meeting.
Parents and students with disabilities attend these meetings. Recording is a modification that needs to be available for these individuals through ADA. A parent with disabilities should not have to disclose his or her disability and have that placed on the student's record.
Sometimes there is a discrepancy between what a parent or teacher thinks was decided at a meeting and what is actually written on the IEP or 504. A recording is a quick, easy way to make sure the document is correct.
Recordings protect everyone on the IEP or 504 team. They assure full transparency.
While the IEP or 504 might have the student's plan on it and be the binding documentation from the meeting, much more is discussed at a meeting than what goes on the plan. A recording of the meeting would give new teachers more information about the child. It would also be helpful for the guardians of a student who is in the foster system or some sort of temporary placement.
The current policy forces parents to record in secret (which is legal) instead of working together with the school. Parents want to be transparent.
Where can I find my school district's recording policy?
Every school district's website is different but they should all have the school board's policies. Go to the information related to your district's Board of Education or School Board. In this section, there should be a link to the policies. Some policies are numbered and some have letters. The recording policy should be section KKB or 2420. If it is not here, you might have to do a search for the district's recording policy.
Here are a few reasons why a school district would benefit from a policy which allows recording.
School faculty who are absent the day of the meeting can listen to the recording to hear what was discussed and decided.
New school faculty or current faculty who are assigned a new student would be able to learn more about the student's education program.
School staff and parents are more likely to be polite and cordial when they know they are being recorded. There is less stress for teachers and parents when everyone communicates in a kinder manner.
It helps with dispute resolution. There would be a record. There wouldn't be questions about notes or what was supposed to go in the IEP or 504 document because there would be a recording to settle the disputes.
It would protect school staff in the event of a due process or a child complaint hearing. Currently, parents are secretly recording and the school doesn't have a transcript. Parents do have a transcript.
It would encourage school staff and parents to actively listen to each other without being concerned about taking detailed notes.
Teachers can use the recording to draft their reports. It would allow for more accuracy in the actual report.
Why should school districts want to record meetings?
Recording Policies in Other States
IDEA, federal special education law, leaves recording to the determination of states. MO's Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is silent on this issue. As previously mentioned, the state of Missouri allows for only one party in a conversation to know that it is being recorded to be legal (Mo. Rev. Stat. § 542.402(2)(3)).
In 1982 Michigan's attorney general gave an opinion on the recording policy related to IEPs and 504s. Unlike Missouri, Michigan is a two-party consent state, meaning both parties have to agree to a recording for it to be legal. He stated that parents and guardians do have a right to record their students' IEP and 504 meetings even if the school does not want meetings recorded. Based on policy letters written by the US Dept. or Education, the attorney general stated, "Clearly the IEPC (IEP committee) meeting at the option of either the parent or officials of the school district. If the parents desire to tape the IEPC meeting, the school district lacks any lawful authority to refuse to proceed with the IEPC on the grounds that such meeting is being recorded by the parents." While this opinion is dated, we think it is even more applicable today where most people carry phones with recording capabilities than it was almost 40 years ago with bulky tape recorders.
Local and Statewide Changes
As MoDE continues to push for statewide change on the recording policy, we encourage individuals throughout the state to start asking their school boards to change the policy. This should be an easy ask, as state law already permits an individual to secretly record a conversation he is part of. Let the school board know that parents and guardians want to be transparent in the fact that they will be recording the meeting. In return, the school district needs to be transparent by allowing the recording to happen. Keep us informed of work you are doing in your district to get the recording policy changed. We want to keep a comprehensive list of what other districts are deciding.