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Special Education Tip # 7: Recording Team Meetings – is it a Good Idea?

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Special Education Tip # 7: Recording Team Meetings – is it a Good Idea?

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Is it a Good Idea to Record Team Meetings in MA?

Team meetings can be stressful and confusing. During a typical meeting, teachers, administrators and specialists offer opinions about your child, often at a rapid pace and using terms with which you may not be familiar. Naturally, it is important for parents to understand what is being said about their child during team meetings so that they can evaluate the special education programs and placements that are being proposed. Given the importance of this information, it would seem to make sense to record the team meeting so that you can review the tape later at home. But is recording a good idea?

First, be aware that under Massachusetts law, it is a criminal offense to record another person’s conversation without their consent. This means that, if you wish to record a meeting, you must disclose your intention to the team. With few exceptions, if you notify the team that you want to record the meeting, you will be allowed to do so. If you are denied the right to record a meeting, you should ask the team for a copy of any school policy that they are relying upon to deny your request.

However, in our experience, the presence of a recording device at a team meeting often inhibits the participants’ honest discussion about your child and may make it more difficult to reach a decision. Team members are just less likely to speak candidly when they know they are being recorded. Therefore, unless there is some unusual reason for recording the meeting, we suggest that parents forego recording and instead do their best to simply take notes of what transpires. Better still, bring a family member or friend with you whose only job is to write down what is said at the meeting.

Most frequently, parents want to record when there is a history of adversarial meetings. Even in these situations, however, recording rarely demonstrates that the team is hostile because members will not speak freely when the recorder is on. Furthermore, parents will need to be cautious in their own remarks because, when the parents record, the team will undoubtedly make its own recording.

When would we recommend recording team meetings? Certainly, if a parent has difficulty hearing or understanding what is being said, recording may be the only alternative. Furthermore, recording may be appropriate during any disciplinary hearings or manifestation determination meetings that could result in suspension or expulsion of the student.

Honest and candid discussion of a student’s strengths and weaknesses are hallmarks of a good team meeting. When recording the meeting is likely to inhibit this discussion, we suggest that parents carefully consider whether it is worthwhile.

 

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