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West’s policy usurps rights

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By Optic Editorial Board

The West Las Vegas School Board is flat-out wrong to have passed a policy prohibiting audio or video recordings of its Individual Educational Program (IEP) meetings between educators and parents. It’s unfair to the parents and the students involved; it places the legal interests of the district over the rights of the parents and their children; and it drives a wedge between the educators and the parents who seek what’s best for their kids.

Moreover, while the board acted on the advice of its attorney, we have to question the legality of such a policy. In a one-person permission state — New Mexico allows tape recordings as long as one of the parties involved knows it’s happening — is it really legal to prohibit the recording of IEPs? We suspect the district’s policy will be challenged, and deservingly so.

Aside from the legal debate, however, it’s still a wrong-headed policy. In IEP meetings, parents of special ed students have a lot of information thrown at them. They are often faced with a number of specialists talking about what’s wrong with their kid — psychologists, therapists, teachers, principals and others participate in these meetings, which sometimes last for hours, so it’s no wonder that a parent would want a recording to refer back to. Not to allow them to record the meeting is a way of punishing parents who really want to understand.

West’s policy is obviously intended to protect the district’s interests. The parent of a special education student has considerable rights, and school officials have an obligation to honor those rights. However, in an all-important and lengthy IEP meeting, those rights may not always be spelled out. Consequently, a recording of the meeting may be good for the family, but it certainly doesn’t help the school if parental rights aren’t being respected.

For these and other reasons, the policy drives a wedge between educators and parents. Distrust already permeates the parent-school relationship on occasion, and telling parents they can’t record the meeting suggests that school officials have something to hide. Of course, the district is probably just  trying to prevent itself from being sued, but if school officials follow the law, respect parents’ and students’ rights and focus on doing what’s best for the children, there should be no lawsuit.

And if they aren’t respecting rights and acting in the child’s best interest, then they deserve to be sued.

West school board members have created bad policy here and are sending a destructive message to the district’s patrons. Hiding behind “the advice of counsel” just doesn’t justify this decision. They need to honor their expressed commitment to serving the children of their district by reversing this decision immediately. If they don’t, they will drive the wedge even deeper between the district and the people, and deserve the distrust that creates.