Columbia Public Schools is considering a policy change that would allow parents with disabilities to record meetings about their child with teachers and other district employees.
However, discussion around that proposed change has expanded to include whether all parents should be able to record meetings about their child.
Right now, the use of recording devices at meetings among district employees and between employees and parents is not allowed.
There are exceptions, but the policy does not specify which ones are OK. It states only that exceptions will be made “in accordance with Board policy and law,” according to the district’s website.
One place the policy comes up is during meetings about children in special education. The first Individualized Education Program, or IEP, meeting takes place after a child receives an educational disability diagnosis. The meetings are used to develop a plan for the child, according to the district’s website. Meetings to review the IEP are held annually.
Columbia parent Kathleen Basi said she attended an IEP review meeting last year for her daughter. She felt confident she understood everything, but when her husband, who couldn’t attend, asked her questions afterward, she struggled to answer them.
Basi thinks recording would allow parents to “be better members of the IEP team,” as the meetings are “heavy on jargon” and “intensive on information.”
“Parents need every tool they can get,” Basi said.
A proposal to update the policy was tabled Monday at a meeting of the district’s Policy Committee. That proposal was limited to allowing parents with disabilities to record meetings — “to allow a parent’s ability to fully participate,” according to a reference copy of the proposal.
Amy Salladay, who spoke to the committee on behalf of the Columbia Special Education Parent Teacher Association, said allowing recording would help parents remember what was discussed and would be helpful during disputes if any arose.
Salladay and her husband met with the IEP team to discuss her daughter’s IEP in January. Her husband mentioned that he struggled to listen and take notes at the same time, but no accommodations were offered. A week later, the couple submitted a written request to record to the district, and it was easily granted, Salladay said. Since then, they have recorded four meetings.
“More trust has been created by having an official record,” Salladay said.
New Columbia School Board member Blake Willoughby, who does not serve on the committee but attended as a citizen, later posted on Facebook that parents are requesting to record IEP meetings and want the policy reviewed.
None of the 34 comments to his post as of Friday afternoon opposed allowing recording devices in meetings. Willoughby said on the post that the committee wants to have conversations “with various stakeholders” before sending an updated policy to the board.
Although Missouri has a law that allows recording if one party consents, the district must still protect the confidentiality of minors, district spokeswoman Michelle Baumstark said.
There is time for additional changes and public comment. The next step is for the Policy Committee to review any change if it decides to do so. The committee can then make a recommendation to the full board. Once it reaches the board, the public may comment.
Discussion will continue around amending the policy, Baumstark said.
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