CA IEP Meetings: What you need to know about recording your meeting during Distance Learning

If your child attends a California public school, you have the right to record your IEP team meeting with 24 hour notification to the school district (CA Ed Code § 56341.1(g)(1)). Many parents/guardians are unaware of this right, but it’s an important right to exercise. Why is this important? For a few reasons such as:
– In an IEP meeting there is such a large amount of information presented, including data points and discussion. As a parent/guardian it can be challenging to take notes, pay attention to all that is being said, formulate questions and document answers. Oh and let’s not forget all the confusing EduSpeak! Recording the meeting allows you to listen to the meeting, or portions of it later to review sections that were confusing or that you missed.
– Documentation. Period. No other way to say it. Sometimes in meetings things are said that may be a violation of your child’s rights, or that demonstrate your child’s IEP is not being followed. You need that recording for documentation in case the school or district is unwilling to correct the issue and you need to file a state or federal complaint.
– Meetings can be confusing when trying to remember who said what. Recording solves that dilemma.

In many states recording is not allowed, so if you are in California take advantage of this right and do it EVERY SINGLE TIME – and yes, you can record during COVID-19 Distance Learning. However, the circumstances of Distance Learning and virtual meetings mean there are some things to know when it comes to implementing this right.

  1. You must notify the school/district that you will be recording your meeting at least 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Do this in an email ALWAYS so that you have a record of when you notified them. This is very important, because it is not unusual to arrive at the meeting prepared to record and the staff seem to be provided notification. With an email notification, you can simply pull that email up on your phone or device and show the time/date you notified and that is good enough to proceed with your right to record the meeting. Also notify that you are recording on the IEP Team Meeting Notice itself. The notice will have a section that states, “If you wish to audio tape this meeting, you must provide 24 hour notice, we may also audio tape the meeting.” Right underneath that, just write in that you will be recording the meeting. When you return your signed meeting notice, ask for a receipt.
  2. Yes, the district/school may also record the meeting. If you record, they should record and that is a good thing. You want that. Here’s why: that recording of your child’s IEP team meeting is now part of their educational record, and you may need this recording and you will learn later in this post why you may need it during Distance Learning. Under FERPA you have the right to request and receive that recording.
  3. Set up a recording device of some kind for your virtual meeting such as the record button on your computer or even a simple recording device with your meeting volume turned up high. Do this as a back up, because this is likely not going to be a high quality recording. Yes, there are many apps and things out there that record at a better quality, but the point of this post is that most parents do not have the technology access or often the skills needed to use external apps or programs. So we are writing this with the larger majority in mind.

Now that you have notified the school and/or district that you are recording, filled out your IEP team meeting notice and you are ready for your meeting, let’s talk about recording your meeting under the virtual conditions of Distance Learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Not all virtual meeting platforms are the same.

Most school districts are using either Google Meet or Zoom. They are not identical and it may matter which one is used.
Mobile or Computer: Both Google Meet and Zoom are available for both your mobile device or your computer.
Free or Paid Version: Because the meeting is set up by the district and they are the host of the meeting you do not need to worry about having a paid account to use either service. You will not be limited in your time to participate if you are a participant and not the host of the meeting. So do not feel compelled to sign up for either account beyond a free version.
Captioning for the hearing impaired: Both can enable real time captioning for participants with hearing loss.
Simultaneous Translation Services: Both Google Meet and Zoom provide the necessary access and support for language translation. If you need translation services, please also notify the district in advance of this need. Make sure before the meeting begins that translation services are ready and all technology necessary to support translation services is enabled.
Recording the Meeting: Recording is a feature available for both Google Meet and Zoom. However, their features are not the same and this is where it becomes important to know and understand the difference between the two.
Zoom can record both video (MP4) and audio (M4A) formats, Google Meet does not. Google Meet records the full meeting with video. This can be an issue as many districts have not included the video recording of staff in their union negotiations, which allows staff to enact their right to not be video recorded. Staff do not have the option to “opt out” of audio recordings. This is why it may matter which virtual meeting tool is being used. As advocates we have arrived at many IEP meetings and made the request for the recording to begin, only to have staff try to “opt out” of the recording. If the meeting is in Zoom, you can simply remind the host to select the audio only recording option when saving the recording the end of the meeting. If it is a Google Meet meeting, then that option is not available. All participants do have the option of turning their camera off, so that should be an acceptable solution for this issue. It’s also acceptable to request in advance of the meeting, that the district ensure that they have the necessary technology in place to record the meeting without disruption.
At the end of the meeting, remind the host to please share a downloadable version of the recording with you before the end of the day. Once you receive the email notice that the file has been shared with you, download it right away to your computer. We recommend storing your copy of the recording in a cloud so that it will not be lost or destroyed if your computer is damaged. You should know, that once the district removes the recording from their drive (which they shared with you), the recording is no longer available to you. This is why it’s an important step to download the recording to your computer and cloud.

What happens if the district will not record the meeting for you?

Yep. This can happen, and we have had it happen – even after following all the steps required to notify that the parent is exercising their right to record the meeting within the required time frame. The answer is yes, the district can refuse to record the virtual meeting for the parent, as the district is working off of pre-COVID norms when virtual meetings did not exist. In CA the district is required to allow the parent to record the meeting, not record the meeting for them – and in the world before COVID-19 this was not an issue. The parent simply arrived at the meeting room at school, and then turned on a recording app on their phone, or brought a recording device and pressed “record” and off we all go, right? Well, COVID-19 has brought forth a new set of challenges:
– The parent is not the host of the virtual meeting and typically does not have recording privileges in the virtual meeting to press a record button.
– Many parents have only one device to use to attend the meeting such as their phone.
– Many parents may not be very tech savvy, lacking the ability to access external recording apps.
This is where that little tip we gave you earlier about FERPA and your right to any recordings in your child’s educational record comes in handy. So districts are not required to record if you are record the meeting, but their legal departments typically instruct staff to do so as a best practice. Districts like to make sure that if you have a recording of the meeting, they have one as well. However, if they have a recording then FERPA allows you the right to obtain a copy of the district recording, as it is now a part of your child’s educational record. So if your district refuses to record “for you” then just go old school and use an external recording device and get the best audio recording of the meeting you can. It is then likely the district will hit the record button on Zoom or Google Meet for themselves and move forward with the meeting. Once the meeting is over, simply submit an email written request for a copy of the meeting under FERPA. If they recorded the meeting as well, they must provide the parent/guardian a copy of that recording under FERPA.

What if the district refuses to provide their copy of the virtual meeting recording?

Email the district Special Education Director and remind the district this is a FERPA request and that this recording is part of your child’s educational record. California law requires that educational records are provided within 5 days of the request by the parent/guardian. Your right to your student’s educational records fall under California Education Code §56504, the IDEA, 20 U.S.C. §1415(b)(1), and under FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act), 20 U.S.C. §1232g.
If the district continues to refuse to provide the recording after the 5th day of your request, file a complaint with the California Department of Education, who can step in and remind the district of their obligation to provide the requested educational record to the parent.

Obviously the goal in recording your child’s IEP meeting is not to be contentious or combative with the school or the school district. It is important to always work as a team for the educational benefit of the child. However, recording the meeting is your right and it is an important right to exercise for all the reasons we outlined in this blog post. Recording the meeting preserves the information for all, and it should never be seen as adversarial and all parents in states that allow recording should simply make it their best practice and habit.