Last Updated on July 26, 2022 by Michelle Ball
By Michelle Ball, California Education Attorney for Students since 1995
Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings for special education students can be very confusing. Many things may be said at an IEP meeting that never make it into the IEP plan. It is thus vital that parents record the student’s IEP meetings so they can challenge any omission. IEP teams also sometimes say statements that could be alarming, derogatory or illegal about a student or what services a school may provide. If a parent has a recording, proof is readily available.
Reasons to Record IEP Meetings- Feeling Outnumbered
Student IEP teams are made up of a group of individuals with different education levels, credentials, and motivations. Parents can feel outnumbered, pressured to do certain things, and can be made to feel more like spectators. This is especially true if a parent disagrees with the rest of the IEP team.
Reasons to Record IEP Meetings- Notetaker Inadequacies
Although at an IEP meeting there is an official notetaker who is an employee of the school district and/or school, WHAT the school notetaker writes into the IEP plan is at their discretion. A notetaker may miss things, or may not write down things a parent thinks are important for the student.
Reasons to Record IEP Meetings- So Parents Can Listen
As parents are usually involved in the IEP discussion, they may be unable to take adequate written notes themselves or may take no notes at all. A recording can help document what was said.
Reasons to Record IEP Meetings- Disputes
If related services or placement disputes arise after the IEP meeting, a parent can prove what was said by playing their recording.
Similarly, if something illegal is stated, such as “we won’t pay for occupational therapy as it costs too much,” the parent can easily prove what was said. Often when such statements are uttered, it is the parent’s word against the school employee’s (and the other IEP team members who back the school). With a recording, nothing is in doubt.
Record IEP Meetings Even If Team “Gets Along”
Recording is important even with IEP teams who “get along.” With a recording, a word-for-word record of the IEP team meeting will always be available. It also keeps team members on their toes and influences all in attendance to meet their legal obligations.
Twenty-four Hour Notice Must Be Provided to Record
Parents have a legal right to record their IEP meetings as long as they provide 24 hour written notice. This is outlined in California Education Code section 56341.1(g)(1) which states:
“[T]he parent or guardian or local educational agency shall have the right to audio record the proceedings of individualized education program team meetings. The parent or guardian or local educational agency shall notify the members of the individualized education program team of his, her, or its intent to audio record a meeting at least 24 hours prior to the meetings.”
Steps to Take to Record the IEP
Parents cannot just walk into an IEP meeting and exercise their right to record. Rather, they have to do some IEP preparation in advance. Otherwise, a parent may be denied the right to record the IEP meeting.
To ensure a parent can record an IEP, they must:
1) Provide notice 24 hours in advance to the IEP team and/or person in charge.
2) Bring a recording device.
3) Bring a copy of the notice provided in case there are questions
Audio recording a student IEP meeting will keep the IEP team on their toes and can ensure that the rights of the student are met. As such, doing a little IEP preparation by sending advanced notice and bringing a recording device is well worth it.
Michelle Ball is a special education attorney assisting students with IEP, 504, SST, and other special education school matters throughout California, from Citrus Heights to Ventura, South San Francisco to Truckee and beyond.
[originally published February 10, 2011]