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In Special Education Dispute, Audio Recording Takes Center Stage


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When a Maine couple wanted to send their son to school with a recording device to ensure that his individualized education program, or IEP, was being followed, the school district said no. Now the family is fighting back.

Jane Quirion and Matthew Pollack say they became concerned about their son Ben, 13, who is nonverbal and has autism and intellectual disability, after he left school one day and cried for over 90 minutes and another incident when he was allegedly left unsupervised at school.

Earlier this year, they informed school officials that they intended to send Ben to class with a tape recorder. In response, a school district attorney said that Ben would not be allowed at school if he brought the device, arguing that an audio recording would violate the privacy of other students and would conflict with the district’s contract with its teachers.

Now, the family is fighting back, alleging that the school district is violating their son’s rights by barring the recorder, and say they may file a federal lawsuit over the matter, reports the Lewiston, Maine Sun Journal. To read more click here.

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Comments (10 Responses)

  1. Holly Delph says:

    Don’t tell the school. Place it in his backpack or somewhere else. Your better off finding the truth and protecting your child. Schools have been abusive and neglectful for a long tiem and are only interested in protecting themselves. Your goal is to make sure your children are not being harmed and IEP is being followed to the best of thier ability. In this day and age I don’t understand why cameras are not in all classroom. It would not only benefit teachers but parents as well. The privacy thing is just a bunch of crap.
    mom of disable child in west mi.

  2. Glen S says:

    Holly: I am the last person to advocate on behalf of a school. But in teaching families how to handle school issues successfully there are a few problems with your recommendations:
    1) By not telling the school you are advocating the parents escalate an adversarial situation.
    2) By not telling the school the parents make their position indefensible should their situation go to mediation or arbitration.
    3) Advocating for your child should never come at the expense of other children. The last thing you want is for one or more sets of parents to come down on the side of the school. I assure you that will happen if the family takes your advise.
    4) You really want to give public, government schools more information stored on disk about the daily goings on of your children?
    5) Unfortunately, each child in that classroom represents a parent or parents who have property rights by the fact they have paid taxes. You MUST be concerned for the privacy of those students.

  3. Ian says:

    If you are considering following Holly’s advice, look into your state’s privacy laws. Secretely recording conversations in this manner may, under some circumstances, be illegal.

  4. Julie says:

    In some states, you need the consent of one individual when recording – such as NJ when Stuart Chaifetz put a wire tap on his son – he was able to give the consent on behalf of his minor child. In other states, you need both parties’ consent. Here is an article that lists what states allow what…

  5. Roni Nolan says:

    1) Agreed, don’t tell the school. That’s like telling the nanny that you have the nannycam running.
    2) Yes, priority one is checking to see if you are in a one party or dual party recording state. NY is 1 party.
    3) My take on privacy is this. Absolutely all classroom children need to be protected, if this were me and I had other children recorded I would go out of my way financially to have those other voices dropped from my recording. I would not hurt or embarrass another child. But the fact of the matter is this, first schools are public buildings. Second, every elementary classroom in America has a teacher that during the first week of school creates a board of all the children’s names (for class jobs etc). During back to school night that list is available and visible to everyone (I secretly take a photo of it because I make it a point to sit next to it and I turn the flash off). Third, class photos from the school photo packet. Fourth, the class list of parents and addresses.
    The point is that the school themselves violates the privacy of every child by making available the physical photo, address and name of each and every child in a particular class. Telling YOU that THEY are concerned with privacy is a crock!
    When my youngest was smaller and barely verbal I used the class photo and pointed to each child and ask him “good” or “bad” to find out what was happening and by whom.
    When is comes to potential school abuses of spec ed kids, you have to be covert, all bets are off to ensure the safety of children.

  6. Liz says:

    School districts lie about what takes place in the classroom. 2 years ago I had an independent evaluation conducted. My psychologist was observing during math. My son was not supposed to be given a math test because I had not been provided the materials to prepare (books & study guide – once again, district had not followed IEP modifications). When my son came home that day, he told me the teacher gave him the test. I emailed case manager and was told several times “No test was given.” although my IE advocate was sitting in the room and watched him take the test. The teacher and case manager lied- guess they forgot there was someone else in the room. When I received the IE report, I informed the case manager he had indeed been given the test. The report, confirmed he sat and became extremely frustrated and upset, until the teacher took the test away and moved him to the back if the room (my son is in middle school but a non reader) . The case manager’s response, infuriating me, was “He didn’t have to complete the test.” The only way I knew the truth was due to the observation that day. The case manager covered for the teacher when she broke the law and did not follow the law. Never trust districts to be honest regarding treatment of your child.

  7. Aga Smies says:

    As a now retired educator but practising mediator, it worries me that such far reaching action is being considered. Have discussions taken place about a communication book? Does the school have educational assistants. Have the policies and procedures been reviewed regarding entering and exiting the school. Have any friendly conversations taken place on improving the situation? What does the school board say about all this. No matter what, instituting illegal actions is not the answer.

  8. Holly Delph says:

    Many daycare centers have ongoing cams whereas parents can look in at any time. Its just a matter of time when the schools are going to be forced to do this. Higher standards. Higher Ed. Both sides are out there. No secrets. Nanny cams are pretty common. Day care cams are common. Public buildings have them. (IE public schools???). Not sure of all those sci fi films (sky satillites) but I’m pretty sure any store we go into have them. So why with our most vunerable (our children) is it such a problem when it would be such learning tool. I don’t get it. The goal is to learn. Not hide everything.
    mom of disabled child in west mi

  9. Dale Freeman says:

    I understand people’s frustration and wish to have more control over what goes on at school, but actions really need to be thought through. Why are the advocates of secret recording assuming that all such recording will work to the BENEFIT of children? There’s a big difference between revealing a list of names and photos (cf Roni Nolan) and recording everything people in the classroom are saying all day! There is just as much potential for information gathered in that way to be used to exploit or otherwise harm people as there is to help them. Recorded discussions between children may reveal personal info about themselves (more than just name and address) that could be used, for example, by a pedophile (and if you think no parents of school-aged children are in this category, you’re wrong!) to persuade a child that the pedophile is a family friend and therefore make the child willing to meet or go someplace with a stranger. What if the recorder in your child’s backpack picks up background conversations (that your child might not even have tuned in to) revealing evidence of another child cheating? Or making racist remarks? Or planning to run away from home? Are you, as a parent, prepared to deal with the ethical dilemmas?

    There is also a practical issue. If you stick a recorder in your child’s backpack and leave it on all (or much of the) day, who is going to listen to 5-6 hours of recording a day and pick out relevant info from all the general chatter?

  10. Holly Delph says:

    To Mr. Freeman. Your statements are why we need vidio cams in all the classrooms. Not everyone can be perfect all the time but corrections can be made. Hateful remarks. Bullys. Students and teachers.Teachers playing on the computer all day in your special needs classroom. Bad people are always out there but we are talking about public schools. Its about time the bar is raised. Heck sports are taped and checked again and again. Jumping, football, swimming, all to make things better. Sure problems will arise but schools have turned into a buisness. Turn a profit and walk away. Its just not working.
    Holly and Emily

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