Sept. 3, 2019 Press Release regarding MO School Board Recording Policies
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 3, 2019 Contact: Robyn Schelp
MoDE: Columbia School Board must allow parents to record openly
Elected officials looking to clarify state law
COLUMBIA, MO- As the Columbia Public Schools Board of Education prepares for an expected vote on a recording policy for the district on Monday, Sept. 9, Missouri Disability Empowerment (MoDE) is calling on the school board to respect state law and allow parents and teachers to record openly.
"MoDE supports an open recording policy as we believe it benefits the students and the teachers,” said Robyn Schelp, president of MoDE. “Missouri state law specifically states that recording a conversation among two or more people is lawful as long as one of the parties knows the recording is taking place. Yet, school policies only give superintendents permission to secretly record meetings without the teachers knowing. We do not support an atmosphere of secrecy and want to encourage open and honest IEP/504 meetings."
At the board meetings in May and June, parents explained the need to record citing several reasons, including being able to review decisions and seek clarification on complex topics and education jargon, literacy difficulties, engaging in meaningful parent participation (which is a federal mandate), and allowing a parent who could not attend the ability to listen to the conversation.
MoDE has also brought the issue to the attention of elected officials. Missouri Senator Denny Hoskins (R-Missouri Senate District 21) has said that he is interested in pursuing legislation so families can record conversations about their kids. Missouri Representative Chuck Basye (R-Missouri House District 47) also supports allowing parents the ability to record these meetings.
“After attending several meetings with local school officials from different districts, it is apparent that legislation is necessary to allow parents the opportunity to record IEP/504 meetings,” Basye said. “I believe that the parent(s) knows what is best for their children and these recordings will allow them to make better decisions for their child's education."
MoDE is disappointed because this action should not be necessary based on current state law. Additionally, the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education was asked for their opinion on the matter, and they referred the issue back without comment saying that it was a local district issue.
“The Missouri School Board Association and the Columbia Public Schools representatives have claimed that it will hurt the relationship and trust between parents and teachers; that argument is
ridiculous,” Schelp said. “If they want to build trust, telling parents they can’t record is not the way to do it. Trust comes when parents and teachers are open and honest with each other about their plans to record instead of recording in secret. If the board and the superintendent truly believe in transparency and working with parents, they will change this policy.”
According to the CPS website, the CPS Department of Special Services has more than 500 employees and is the largest department in the school district. In the most recent data available, they served approximately 1,800 students for an average staff to student ratio of 3.6 to 1. The Special Services department has made several changes in the past year, including revamping their website to include additional resources and information for parents and sending a welcome letter to parents who have children with special needs.
“The Special Services Department has been working hard to make welcome changes that are a great first step toward helping parents understand a very difficult and complex time in their child’s life, which I absolutely appreciate,” said Michelle Ribaudo, president of the Columbia Special Education Parents and Teachers Association. “When children with disabilities are given proper supports, they have the opportunity to succeed, not only in education, but in life. SEPTA is focused on what Missouri law says on this issue. Right now, teachers are being put in a difficult position of deciding between following school policy or the law.”
NOTE: Attached is a letter to the Columbia Board of Education written by local attorney Amy Salladay who researched the recording policy and Missouri state law.