Proposed MO House bill hopes to allow parents to record special education meetings

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This article was published on KOMU by John Jenco on December 9, 2020.

JEFFERSON CITY – A pre-filed bill for the 2021 Missouri General Assembly legislative session would give parents or legal guardians of students with special needs the ability to record IEP or 504 meetings.

House Bill 228, sponsored by Rep. Chuck Basye, would prohibit schools from preventing the recording of these meetings.

The bill also makes the recording the property of the parent or legal guardian of the student.

Individualized Education Program meetings happen at least once each year between parents, teachers, district officials and specialists, according to Michelle Ribaudo of Missouri Disability Empowerment, or MoDE.

“The IEP is a backbone of a child’s education,” Ribaudo said. “They’ll have actual goals, actual accommodations.”

Ribaudo said the 504 meetings are used to discuss a child’s access to education and whether the child needs to be in a classroom.

Basye filed similar legislation last year under HB 1540. The bill passed the House with 144 ‘yes’ votes, four ‘no’ votes and one ‘present’ vote.

Basye said the bill was loaded up with amendments once it reached the Senate that were unpopular with some legislators. Then, the pandemic stopped the legislative session.

“We didn’t have time to get the amendments taken off, so we just ran out of time,” Basye said. “But I think the bill should progress this year.”

A group of MoDE parents attended the legislative session last year.

“It went to the Education Chair and it had a lot of support,” Ribaudo said. “We really had felt like it was going to do well and then COVID hit.”

Missouri is a one-party consent state for recording conversations, but Missouri School Board Association policy recommended against recording. 

Most school districts in the state adhere to the policy.

“With Missouri being one party consent, it just doesn’t make sense to not allow this,” Ribaudo said.

Parents of Columbia Public Schools students with special needs described difficulties not being able to record the meetings.

They describe the meetings as having anywhere between 8 and 15 people involved. The meetings can last for hours.

A CPS spokesperson said about 2,000 students in the district require IEP meetings.

Tara Arnett’s son Logan has autism and requires an IEP meeting. He attends sixth grade at John Warner Middle School.

Arnett can only refer to handwritten notes and the IEP document from the meetings.

“Aside from what’s written down on the paper of his goals, it’s hard to recollect what the conversation surrounded at that time,” Arnett said.

Arnett described the meetings as very emotional. She recalled her son’s IEP meeting going into kindergarten, which she said was a difficult experience as a parent.

“I walked out of there just emotionally fried,” Arnett said. “Being able to look back on those meetings when you’re not in such an emotionally charged state is important for parents to be a good operating member of the team.”

Christina Ingoglia’s six-year-old daughter Lily has a genetic disorder that impacts her health. Lilly is also non-verbal.

Ingoglia’s IEP meeting for her daughter’s entry into kindergarten lasted six hours across three sessions and was held virtually on Zoom.

“I can barely remember yesterday, let alone a six hour conversation in the spring,” Ingoglia said.

Ingoglia also sat through meetings when her child was in pre-school.

“It felt like we were drowning in details and information and later it felt like we didn’t even know what had just happened,” Ingoglia said.

She added that being able to record these meetings would be important for parents new to the IEP process.

Ingoglia said being able to record wouldn’t benefit just her, but also her son’s educators.

“It helps the team because we all remember the conversation better and we can keep each other honest on what we agreed to.”

Ingoglia was confident the bill would pass, and it is a matter of “when” not “if.”

Both Arnett and Ingoglia are members of the Columbia Special Education Parent Teacher Association.