Are you allowed to observe your child's present classroom or proposed classrooms?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is yes, with some 'reasonable' conditions.

Fist of all, in order to be a full member of the IEP team, you need to have all the information in order to be 'fully informed" about your child's education, right?. This is federal IDEA 2004 speaking. In PA, the recent changes to Chapter 14 Special Ed law (in effect as of July 1 2008) added to federal law (enhanced its protections).

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§ 14.108
Parents shall have reasonable access to their child's classrooms, within the parameters of local educational policy.
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And to clarify those new regulations allowing school observations, read the 'comments' on page 11 of the official board response to comments pdf [download here or read below].

§ 14.108. Access to classrooms.
Comments received about this section include: the regulation should provide families and their experts access to current and proposed classrooms; this provision fringes on the violation of other children’s rights under FERPA (Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act); this provision should be addressed in Chapter 4, addressing access for parents of any student, regardless of disability, rather than in Chapter 14 where it only covers the parents of students with disabilities; the term “reasonable access” should be clarified; and we encourage the Board to go further by providing parents and family experts access to their child’s current and proposed classroom, while ensuring school and classroom safety and functioning.

negotiation"The Board believes it is necessary to balance the interest of the parent to visit classrooms against the responsibility of the school to preserve a safe, orderly and uninterrupted learning environment. The Board believes school administration should determine when and where it is appropriate for parents or advocates to visit their classrooms to either observe their child in their existing setting or to visit potential educational settings to assist in their determination whether the setting is appropriate to address their child’s needs. Given that each individual student’s situation, school and program of services will vary, the Board believes that access should be addressed by local policy. The Board believes the use of the term reasonable is appropriate in this instance given the considerable differences in both the physical layout and educational programming of schools in addition to the variety of student supports and interventions given the nature of each student’s disability."

So, your first step is to obtain a copy of your school board's 'properly promulgated policy' regarding parent (or other) visits to classrooms. Only then will you know what is allowed similarly situated families, whiich is the minimum you should expect for your situation. Visitations includes considering the access allowed to PTA/PTO parent volunteers and may also include acess allowed to student teachers, consultants, high school student volunteers and others.

By way of history, OSEP's 2004 Letter to Mamas, LeRoy Rooker of OSEP specifically addressed access to proposed classrooms. Though at the time OSEP determined there was no specific entitlement to observe classrooms proposed (like Chapter 14 regulations now offer as of July 1 2008), Mr. Rooker did state; "... we encourage school district personnel and parents to work together in ways that meet the needs of both the parents and the school, including providing opportunities for parents to observe their children's classrooms and proposed placement options."

MORE:

List of PA Approved Private Schools you might want to observe.

 
 

OSEP Letter to Mamas, (2004)

One of the key purposes of the IDEA Amendments of 1997 is to strengthen and expand the role of parents in the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of their child. The IDEA specifically provides that the parents of a child with disabilities:

(1) have an opportunity to participate in meetings with respect to the identification, evaluation, and educational placement of their child, and the provision of a free appropriate public education to their child (§§300.501(b), 300.344(a)(1), and 300.517));

(2) be part of any group that determines what additional data are needed as part of an evaluation of their child (§300.533(a)(1)), and determine their child’s eligibility (§300.534(a)(1)) and educational placement (§300.501(c));

(3) have their concerns and the information that they provide regarding their child considered in developing and reviewing their child’s IEP (§§300.343(c)(iii) and 300.346(a)(1)(i) and (b)); and

(4) be regularly informed, as specified in their child’s IEP, at least as often as parents are informed of their nondisabled children’s progress, of their child’s progress toward the annual goals in the IEP and the extent to which that progress is sufficient to enable the child to achieve the goals by the end of the year (§300.347(a)(7)).

 

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