49 answers

Refused Observation in Classroom Activity

What would you do if the principal at your child's school said he had made a policy refusing parents the right to observe their child in an academic environment siting the reason as being preserving the confidentiality of the other children participating?

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I felt the need to clarify a few things. The responses have been overwhelming, thanks to everyone. My child was reffered to the SSI program. I don't recall what it stands for, but we were given our child's low test scores as a reason for him needing to attend. He is doing fine in the classroom, but because he lacks a bit of focus and he doesn't do great in timed activities (he's not a slow processor, but he definitely takes his time thinking) he did poorly on the standardized tests they performed at the beginning of the year. I mostly chalked it up it being his first formal testing since he went to a private kindergarten. Anyway, we have never been real comfortable with the SSI program because there has been a lack of communication from the get-go. I had to call a neighbor who is a teacher at the school to even figure out what it was. We were then told we would be kept informed as to what they did in this "class" and how he was doing and when he improved he would no longer be in it. Well he had been in SSI for a little over a month and we hadn't heard any progress reports. So, my husband called in to talk to the SSI teacher and she said she didn't usually give reports, but she would be more than happy to put one in his next 6 weeks report card. From there my husband decided he would ask to observe the SSI class. That is when he was turned down. He would be allowed in the regular classroom, but not the SSI class because of confidentiality reasons. This didn't set well with either of us, so he did, as many of you suggested, call the district. There is not such policy for the district. My husband then called back and talked to the principal and he said it was all his decision. He sited FERPA, which my husband immediately replied that it did not apply. He also started using words like "at-risk" and "special program" ...those combined with the confidentiality made this whole program seem like a much bigger deal than we had earlier been told. We were under the impression this a basic tutoring session. I am a former SpEd teacher and SLP, so I am familiar with all the buzz words, and also the words administrators use when they are beating around the bush. I am not afraid to have a child diagnosed with some type of learning disability, but if this is really the road they are wanting to go on, then they need to have a conference with us and talk to us about it...not try to do it behind our backs through some obscure program. I'm just confused, frustrated, and pretty much in disbelief. I just don't think it wise to have any program in a school that a parent can't observe. We're all in a fuss about how to hold teachers accountable and we all know that however well-meaning TAKS and no child left behind were, they don't work. How about doing simple things like letting parents observe? Doesn't that inately allow for some accountability? I don't know how it will all end, but if we can't observe the program we very well may just pull him out. I can tutor him just as well at home as I'm sure I have a lot more education than the teacher assistant currently teaching the tutoring (or whatever it is).

By the way, I am a member of the PTA, but haven't figured out how to use that to my advantage yet. I can't volunteer at school nearly as much as I would prefer as I have 3 non-school-aged children at home. But my husband and I both have been cleared to volunteer and have already been involved in a field trip and my husband has joined our son for lunch a couple of times. I do email the teacher often and have attempted to maintain and grow a positive relationship with her. I really think she is a great fit for my son and am grateful she is his teacher.

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I would say there is something seriously wrong with the principal's thought process. My personal opinion is that anyone who doesn't want to allow me access to my child must have something to hide.

1 mom found this helpful

If I were you I would go straight to the school board with a complaint about this. You have the right to know what is going on in the classroom.

This is AMerica! I have worked in the public schools!
The principal should welcome parents! These are state officials , paid by you!
C. N.

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Public school? Visit the superintendent.

Private school? Change schools and report them to the BBB. If a private school is restricting access like that, something very wrong is going on in there. (If it is a public school, most likely the prinicpal is just an idiot.)

1 mom found this helpful

That would ruffle my feathers a bit, but maybe an outside source could be an intermediary...I'm assuming a little here, but if you want to observe, are you concerned about a behavior issue with your child or just how he/she is adjusting? If so, maybe you could have a phychologist or some other type of specialist do the observation and report back to you. If that is refused, I'd be very concerned.

1 mom found this helpful

I would be going to the superintendent and see if this was a district policy. Also, I would also suggest joining your PTA or PTO and become an active volunteer if possible. You will have to probably undergo a background check, but again it is worth it. Most of the schools won't let you bring your other children while doing this, but you will be amazed at what you see and hear by doing this and how much a couple hours a week helps. It will also help you build a good relationship with your child's teacher as well as get to know them and the other teachers at the school. There is never enough time for all the things that they need or want to do with the children.
Good luck and I hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

I would say there is something seriously wrong with the principal's thought process. My personal opinion is that anyone who doesn't want to allow me access to my child must have something to hide.

1 mom found this helpful

I say it is BS. I am a teacher and parents are always welcome to come to my classroom. The only reason the administrators would ask that a parent would not come is if there is some other motive, like a lawsuit pending. I also teach first grade, by the way. I see no reason as long as you are not trying to observe all the time. Sometimes the parent can cause a disruption, but if you just want to watch for a little while to get a sense of what your child's day is like, I would talk to the teacher and see what her thoughts are.

1 mom found this helpful

I would first check on the districts policy. I bet you will find that the district has a different policy. Most districts allow parents to observe or even visit. You might even try calling the superintendants office. I am assuming this is a public school. If so, anyone who pays school taxes has a right to view the school even if they do not have a child attending.

I have an issue with that also. My youngest daughters school will not let parents sit in a classroom to observe their child. I have fought this for years and have had many meetings with her. It has nothing to do with the confidentiality of the other kids. Her thinking is we are interrupting the class and making the teacher feel uncomfortable. Here is what I have learned if you are a member of the PTA board you can do whatever you want in the school. Our school handed out badges for the board members to come and go as they please. They dont have to check in with the office and be asked a million questions on where we are going, for what, and does the teacher know you are coming? To me this is sad. I have talked with a lot of other parents who have argued the same thing and we have gotten no where. Best bet is to go to the school board and bring it up, and go to a PTA meeting and bring it up. WE all have the right to see how are kids are doing in school and sit in their class to make sure they are acting right, and see how the teacher is teaching, how much time to they get to do work and so on. I can tell you that last year I was on the board of PTA and I could go just to the lunch room, but other PTA members could go whereever. I had had enough and call the prinipal and asked why i was given the third degree about where I was going but other members are not. (Keep in mind I have been a part of this school since my oldest was in 3rd grade who is know a 10th grader and my youngest is know in 2nd grade)Here is what I was told.:Its are policy at **** elem. to keep a quiet learning eniveroment for our students, and should you have a problem with it then I suggest you take it up with the school board. Not every parent has the right to come and go as they please and you should understand that.: Can you believe that? So.. with this beign said take it to the school board and bring it up in a PTA meeting. Get all the parents you know to come and back you on this. Good luck.

Dear T.:

None of my daughter's schools has EVER said anything like that, and we've been at four schools now! My daughter's schools just requested not timing a visit with a test and disrupting class as little as possible and giving them advance notice, of course.

Personally I would go over the principal's head and contact the administration of the school district. You have a right to observe what's going on.

L. F., mom of a 13-year-old

If I were you I would go straight to the school board with a complaint about this. You have the right to know what is going on in the classroom.

I would explain to that person you ALLOW them to teach YOUR child. The state of Texas does not REQUIRE you to place your child in their school.

I would site the "Parents Bill of Rights for Texas Public Schools" http://scotthochberg.com/parents.html. According to this the State of Texas grants the Parent access to all "teaching materials". I would definitely site the teacher and classroom as "teaching materials.

Ask him what part of the Texas Education Code he is siting to give him the right to refuse you access to your child's "teaching materials"? Tell him that you just want to make sure you have a clear understanding.

As a last resort you can always choose to home school. At which point he will loose out on the funding that your child's attendance would bring to his school.

SAHM mom of three: 19,18,and 5.
Home Baker, Candy Maker, and Crafter. Married to the same wonderful man for almost 12 yrs.

I know public schools have observation times, but they can't completely refuse you.

That is odd! I have a kindergartener and a first grader. I volunteer in both their classes once a week and get to view them interacting with the teacher and other students.

You should call the school board for your ISD and find out the rule. Sometimes principals / teachers will tell parents anything thinking we won't do further research.


Thats kind of weird... what about volunteering do they allow that? thats the same thing... I know they are not allowed to discus the other children but being in the class should not be a problem...

A. J

Personally, I would remove my child. what are they learning that should be confidential? Would be very interested to see what others think.....

Call Daycare Licensing at ###-###-####, and let them know about this. What you are saying goes against the Minimum Standard Rules of the state of Texas. Unless the facility is exempt for some reason, they must be licensed by the stare. That being said...I do not know if public school is required to be licensed, but you can call the state rep to find out, to see if this is where 'they' should step in.

I wanted to observe the local public elementary here and they said no for the same reasons. I wanted to see if I wanted to enroll my child there. They did give me a tour of the school and actually let me see more of the classrooms than I thought they would. But, I decided not to enroll him. I enrolled him in a private school and the private school is super open to parents coming in. I don't think they would be open to "strangers" as much, but parents are encouraged to participate. But, strangers can't even get into this school. I don't know if this is normal or not, but all doors are locked and parents have a key fob to get into the building. Strangers have to go through the front door and show ID at the front.

Ask to have copies of things in writing ... a copy of the district policy that bans parent observation (probably doesn't exist) ... a written reason for the principal's refusal. Ask very nicely, of course ... tell the principal you just want to understand, or be very clear, or whatever. If s/he is gutsy enough to give you something in writing, you can go to the school board or superintendent with written proof, rather than heresay. Chances are, when you ask for information in writing, the principal will back down and change his mind. If he doesn't, I would still go to the board or the super. Public schools don't refuse parental involvement, UNLESS there's more to the story. Are you and the principal or teacher having other kinds of problems?

I would call the superintendent and ask if it is legal. Then, if it is, I would change school districts.

It might seem a little extreme - but there is NO WAY I would allow somebody to tell me that I cannot be around my kid!

Before you go to battle, step back and think this through. I've been allowed to observe my child in school many times throughout the years at various different schools. I learned a lot, and think parents should be provided access. It does need to managed though. But, the problem of preserving privacy for other students that your principal describes is a real one. How would you feel if another parent watched your child's class, then discussed a behavior incident or learning problem related to your child with other parents? I've seen it happen many times with parent volunteers who are not well-trained and selected to respect the children's interests.

First try to build trust with the teacher and the principal so that they understand that your intentions are sincere to just focus on your child. Volunteering quietly in a corner in the classroom is a better way observe anyway. Kids will forget you are there if you are busy with a project, and not just sitting in a chair to watch. You will also be able to stay longer and learn more what happens naturally.

Ask yourself, why you need to observe. Are there other ways than sitting in the classroom to learn what you want to learn. Kids can act differently when parents are in the room. So, the observation may not help you as much as you might think. If it is social skills, the playground might be a better place to watch. If the rule is rigid for no parents observing, see if another person can observe for you. I've had speech therapists and even my sister who is a teacher come to observe for me. Think through all the issues, then decide if you want to butt heads with the principal and raise a stink. It may be really important to you. But, it may not be worth it.

Me personally??... I'd pull him out of public school as quick as lightning and start homeschooling immediately. Email me if you want more info on basic homeschooling! That's one thing that really bothers me about public school, they take your child away for 7-8 hours a day and you can't be any part of it. You don't know what all your child is seeing, learning, observing, and ingesting. You just don't know.

I worked in a school district for three years and my sister teaches as well. I don't know that I ever saw a parent observe a class but I don't know any teachers that would have objected. I do know that there are parents out there that don't believe their child can do wrong and having them in the classroom won't show their child's behavior problems. Kids don't act the same around their parents as they do in classrooms. I even had a child once lie to me about stealing something that I caught him stealing, and his homeroom teacher called the parent. Well, the parent threw a fit that we said their child "stole" instead of saying he "took" it or "borrowed" it even though the definitions of those words are extremely different. We weren't even backed up by the principal!

So, I'm on the fence. I do understand that if there are children with certain modifications, the law may protect them because of confidentiality reasons. Other people aren't allowed to know what kind of mods or needs other children have. I would want a more appropriate answer from the principal on this. Also look into the rules from the district.

And, as someone else pointed out about the PTA board members having full access...it was true in my district. Only, I hated the board members because they would let their kids into my room (computer lab) after hours and I would come in in the morning to find my room unlocked, food crumbs and trash around the computers, and my board written all over. I don't say that's the case with every PTA board...but it was in mine! :)

I substitute teach at only 1 elementary school here in Plano which is a Blue Ribbon school. I have never seen a parent denied to observe.

Now, during TAKS testing.....parents are asked not to come on those days becauase they want everything quiet and orderly for testing. Any other time though, you see parents all the time.

Wow, you've gotten tons of responses. Consider the principal's point of view too.... he/she may have had a trouble-making parent (and believe me there are a few that make the rest look bad).

Join PTA... it's the best way to get on the "inside" of the system. Volunteer on the board. You have 4 kids. You are going to need the inside scoop and all the support you can get. Besides, then the principal and teachers will know you're interested in working WITH them, not against them and that will open doors for you.

There's policy and there's reality. The principal rules the school and unless they do something really out of line, the district will back them up. Don't make an enemy of the principal, make a team-mate. Explain you just want to help your child and his teacher by understanding what you can do to help your child learn.

If you go on the offense, they're going to stomp you out. Caring and supportive is the tactic you need to use.

A few years ago, I asked to observe a freshman algebra class and freshman algebra resource class to decide which would be best for my son. I accidentally wore my volunteer name tag when I met with the principal to make my request. (okay, i was sucking up, it wasn't an accident!) And I promised to be very quiet and unobtrusive. He said okay, I was given a free pass to go on a certain day and time and I saw the classes and made my choice. I thanked the principal.

Good luck with your child and if you think there's a reason, like maybe a learning disability or something, you can ask that a diagnostician drop in on the class too for another oppinion. And if you think there's a behavioral problem, ask if the counsellor can stop by to visit the class.

This is AMerica! I have worked in the public schools!
The principal should welcome parents! These are state officials , paid by you!
C. N.

I think I would ask at least one more time, unless you've tried more than once, and then I'd place a call to the superintendant's office to question the policy. Is your child in a public or private school system? Private school policies can differ from what is governed by the state. Good luck and take heart. In our elementary school experience we were welcomed--unless it was a testing day or some other special event. Another option for the future is to volunteer to be room mother or to help with special events.

Depends on the district, but look at your districts handbook. If it says it permits it, then nicely let them know. Don't forget that if you do sit and observe in the classroom, your child could possibly act differently. ie you could be possibly be a disruption to the classroom. That is the reason that I try not to volunteer in the classroom, but instead make copies and such for my sons teacher. My son is in 2nd grade and when he sees me it does disrupt his class. If he has a good teacher, I suggest keeping in constant contact with her.

I would take that information to the district. I have never heard of such thing. not saying that it doesn't make any sense.

I agree w/Cathleen B!

Sounds to me there may be something they do not want you to see!

So long as you are not verbal , just observing for a bit and quitely come and leave , I haven't heard of a parent not being able to visit. Our school has a policy that you have to check in with the office first, and I'm sure this is so they know it is a parent, and that you won't be disrupting the class.

Greetings T.:

I don't know what the law is, but I know as a school taxpaying parent, I reserve the right to go and observe the activity of my child's classroom. You may ask him or the teacher to have a parent conference and get a waiver for all parents to sign stating they do not object to the observation process. I would idly by and let the principal tell me just anything. All the parents should this policy and if you are this active in your kid's education, he shouldbe applauing your efforts. It's no wonder you opted to home school. Good luck and keep us posted on mamasource as to the outcome.

My son is in an FAC (contained room for SN children) room in Mckinney and for me to be able to come into his room i had to sign a confidentiality agreement, just stating that i wouldn't share what i seen in the classroom (with the other children) with anyone else. you might check and see if they have one of those and tell them you are willing to sign it you just want to observe your child in the classroom environment and how he interacts with the teacher.
~Good LUck~

Every parent has the right to observe THEIR child in a classroom setting. I would go to the school board and see what the ISD policy is. If the ISD policy is that parent's have access to observe in the classroom, I would hold the principal's feet to the fire, so to speak and make sure (s)he is adhering to that policy. If the school board says it's up to the individual campus, then I would probably go to the press. It has been proven that a child's academic experience is actually enhanced the more parent(s) are involved.

Go over his head. He has no right to deny you the right to observe anything you wish. I am absolutely horrified that a professional educator would think this is okay (being a former teacher myself).

No advice but wow.

Read your school districts hand book. It should state that they encourage parents to be more involved and welcome you any time just be sure to check in at office and get guest pass. Also call the district school office and ask them what the district policy is. I have lived in Florida and now in Amarillo and both schools had it right in the student handbook that they welcome us. Yes if you feel there is a reason to go observe what goes on during a typical day then you have that right. If the handbook and the district office say yes then he can not go against district policy and make his own rules. Once you find out and if they say yes then go up there with the hand book and the persons name you spoke with at district and have that persons number ready with your cell phone and tell them don't ask that you are there to observe your childs class. If he says no show him the book and if he still says no then call the distirct right then and explain you are there and trying and the principal said he changed district policy at his school and is refusing you that should get you in. Good Luck

I'm not sure what the law states as far as you being able to do that so I would contact the Texas Education Agency. Here is their link: http://www.tea.state.tx.us/.HTH!

I would first ask if a particular parent has ruined it for all of us, and then I would ask what they're trying to hide. This is a public institution run by the government. They have no right to keep parents from observation if there is reason for concern. However.....a parent there in the room too often can be very disruptive. Is there something else going on with your child, teacher, or the relationship you have with the teacher? These are all variables that can truly affect how to handle the situation. I have family members that are teachers, and I sympathize with them when they have to deal with an overbearing parent who tries to run the class with intimidation towards the teacher. I would first discuss this with the teacher, and if you don't get the answers you need, go to the school counselor. Then, go over their heads to the school district. One way or another, you need to be able to feel good about the environment your child is in. However, sometimes a child will behave better when parents aren't there. So there may be a child that needs his or her parent to stay away so that he/she can learn, and perhaps this is what has caused this rule to come to pass. But my feelings are that if this is the case, then the principal needs to deal with the specific person bravely, instead of blanketing the entire community so he doesn't have to face an uncomfortable situation. This "politically correct" attitude needs to go away....it does not prepare ANYONE for life in the real world. Good luck!

go to the superintendent of the school district. good luck.

I would resend my request via email and cc the superintendent. That's BS.


Confidentiality is something that school administrators and teachers have to consider. It depends on what the activity is. Also, sometimes principals don't want the classroom disrupted. If you sit in on a lesson, then they have to let all parents do the same. Can you imagine the chaos? As a parent, I can understand how you feel. I think it all depends on the reason for you wanting to observe your child, which you didn't state in your question. Also, realize that your child will act completely differently with you in the room. If you want to truly see how your child is in the classroom, you would need to do it without your child knowing which is probably not possible since videotaping is out of the question because of confidentiality. I'm sure the school would be willing to work with you as long as no laws or school policies are being broken. If not, then go to the administration building and speak to someone there.

I am so tired of teachers/principals "kicking careing parents" out. All you hear is how they want parents involved, etc. and then when you actually put forth an effort to become involved, you are kicked out. Weekly if not more often you hear of teachers being put on leave for inappropriate behavior/sex with our children - maybe if parents were allowed to be involved and participate and be seen more at school, it would help with this problem. They want us to "trust" them with our kids, but don't trust us to be up there with our kids and other kids to be involved. I'm not allowed to walk my daughter to her classroom each morning nor am I allowed to eat lunch with her in the cafeteria. I am on the PTA and I have done all of the background checks. The school system is like Communism; all of the staff stands behind each other whether they agree with it or not. Something is WRONG with how OUR tax dollars are being spent; I wish someone would take this to the Texas Education System that's the only place that will make a difference.

Contact his supervisor. Go to your school board trustee. If you still don't get in - go public - pressure from the media seems to be the only way things get done anymore.

Then I would say, what can I observe? Or what is an alternative or exception to the rule? Express your concern and worry, reasoning behind the request, and ask for suggestions. Tell him you understand his new rules and the reasoning for them, however you have legitimate concerns regarding your children and need a solution. If he refuses and does not give you any other alternatives,then I would ask myself how important this situation is to choose to go to battle with this principle on this issue. If it is one you wish to debate, then ask who you can talk to above him, school board, superintendent, etc. Write letters asking questions, etc. I am surpised, this is a public school after all.

After reading your response, I am adding this:
It sounds like you are concerned about your son's academic performance, and why the school is not informing you, and/or including you in all the decisions and details of what is going on. I would request a meeting with the teacher and principal on exactly what your concerns are (write a list of questions you and your husband want to address before the meeting. Tell them you are concerned with the interventions they are using and are not well-informed as they are implemented. Ask if a procedure can be put in place, like a progress report from the teacher, or bi-weekly meeting, email from the teacher, so you can have a two-way conversation regarding your child's progress, and then express your interventions you have done at home as well. If you have a good relationship with the teacher, ask her if you can schedule regular meetings until your son meets mutual goals. Hope this helps!

You could ask if you could watch through the window on the door or doorway not to distract the students in the class. Instead I would try a completely different approach and ask the teacher if you can help out in the class, make copies, etc. Talk to the teacher or e-mail the teacher to find out all that is going on. Most teachers are very happy to have the help. When my oldest was in kindergarten I would e-mail his teacher on a regular basis.

I would come unglued. The schools are publicly-owned buildings and his position is publicly funded. As long as you meet certain criteria, you cannot be denied access. If you haven't passed a criminal background check, that could a reason to deny access. But if you've passed their criminal background check, then I would insist on being allowed in the classroom. I don't know what school district you are in, but I would go over his head. In Plano, there are Cluster Superintendents over the Principals. Call someone TODAY and don't take "no" for an answer. Go to the School Board if that becomes necessary.

It has been my experience when someone makes such policies something is being hidden---and that doesn't mean good things in this situation.

You are a smart mom to want to be able to see what is going on this the classroom. Keep us posted.

Now is the time to find out more about that policy. First call the superintendent's office and find out what the policy is in the district. Then talk to the pta president to get more information on why the policy is in effect and if pta has addressed it with the principal. My kids are out of school now, but i volunteer at several campuses and schools are a different place now.

Because of safety issues on campus, schools have had to have strict visitation policies. And because of lawsuits, they are held to levels of confidentiality on what happens in the classroom. But there are acceptable options--announced visits scheduled in advance or volunteer to help in the classroom or the campus. You will need to fill out a release statement and agree to a security screening. With other children at home, you will be asked to leave them at home.

It is important that your stay involved in your child's education. You are your child's best advocate. Either work within the existing system, or work to change it. You are probably not the only parent who is bothered with this "policy".
Good luck!

I think this kind of policy is illegal because a parent cannot be refused the right to see her child. They can limit a parent's interaction with other students if a parent has something on their required background check. However, you can check with someone specializing in school law, with the Texas Education Agency, or even check with someone at the Administration office of the school district. Hope it helps.

What a total idiot that principal must be. That is just riduculious! I would pursue this with the board of education and write letters to Rick Perry! Also call the Mayor and make sure his office is aware of this policy. I would raise some hell in this town! Confidentiity????What are they trying to hide???? Good luck!

confidentiality of what? that a particular other child is in that program too? that they didn't listen or understnad? are you going to sell the info to someone? i just don't get that. Your child is in there with the other kids too and could easily walk out and tell everyone everthign that goes on etc so what is the big deal with you observiing your child in the class? confidentiality of what? I have to say i'd be with you on this and tutor your kiddo at home since you are qualified. It seems to me that when a child is involved in a program for these reasons there should be MORE communication going on rather than less....no reports usually? in a class that he/she can LEAVE and stop going to after they improve? you'd think they would update all the time. my kids go to private school so i'm sure there is a lot about public school i'm not aware of....heck there's a bit about private school policy i don't know too but this doesn't seem right. good luck

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