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Monday, May 13, 2024

Case on Recording IEPs

These meetings can turn nasty, and many autism parents have “IEP horror stories.”  One parent told me that she tried to ease tensions by bringing cookies to the meeting.  The principal then shouted to his staff, “Nobody touch those cookies!”  Another parent writes of asking for a sensory diet, a personalized activity plan that helps the student stay focused (e.g., low noise levels for those with a sensitivity to sound).  “After just proclaiming she is extremely knowledgeable about Asperger’s Syndrome, from the mouth of a school psychologist after we suggested our son needed a sensory diet. `Our cafeteria does not have the ability to provide this.’”

From the Liberty Justice Center:

On May 3, the Liberty Justice Center filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear Pitta v. Medeiros, a case about the types of speech and expressive activity protected under the First Amendment.

Beginning in the spring of 2022, parents Scott and Roxanne Pitta attended a series of virtual meetings with employees at their local public school about their child’s individualized educational program (IEP). After multiple meetings where the Pittas alleged that school employees omitted parts of the discussion from the official minutes, the family asked to video record a September meeting to preserve an accurate account of the discussion about their child’s IEP. The school refused their request and ended the meeting. In April 2024, the Pittas sued the district for violating their First Amendment rights, arguing that they have a constitutional right to record government officials performing their duties.

A federal appeals court ruled that the First Amendment only entitles private citizens to record public officials who are performing their duties in an “indisputably public place” and when the recording would serve the public interest. Based on that ruling, the Pittas’ verbal request to record an online-only meeting that they attended in their own home was illegal.

The Pittas are now petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their case.

The Liberty Justice Center’s amicus brief urges the Supreme Court to hear the case and reverse the lower court’s decision. The brief argues that recording a public official performing their duties qualifies as expressive activity protected by the First Amendment—and serves the interest of public transparency—regardless of whether it takes place in a public area or on private property.

“This case implicates the First Amendment, government transparency, and parents’ rights in education—three vital reasons for the Court to hear the case,” said James McQuaid, Staff Attorney at the Liberty Justice Center.

The Liberty Justice Center’s amicus brief in Pitta v. Medeiros is available here.