Final report cards don't go out until next week, but we're giving West Linn-Wilsonville School District an early F in Public-Mindedness 101.
Our harsh assessment stems from the roguish treatment given Rose Case, a Wilsonville High parent who was looking out for her autistic son. Like all parents of special-education kids, Case was invited to a meeting at the beginning of the school year with the teachers who were coming up with an individualized plan for her son. Because such meetings often delve into unfamiliar ground for parents, many bring a tape recorder.
Case had additional reasons to get the meeting on tape. First, her husband, who is also autistic, was not able to attend. Second, she felt the district had misrepresented those meetings in the past.
District officials, however, said she could not tape. When Case raised a fuss, the district taped the meeting itself and provided her with a copy--which proved unintelligible thanks to poor audio quality.
Then, in January, the district made the parental-taping ban an official policy, becoming the only district in Oregon to do so, says special-education advocate Roger Meyer. Special-ed director Ken Welch told WW that parental taping "can be an intrusion into the process."
The dispute made its way to the Oregon attorney general's
office, where Assistant AG Joe Gordon McKeever issued an opinion stating that the taping ban was legal but could "exacerbate the problem" of parents' mistrusting the district.
An Oregon Department of Education committee also looked at the issue and "couldn't really understand why a district would restrict taping," said ODE legal specialist Suzy Harris. She says committee members felt "it was better public policy to have an open process."
The West Linn-Wilsonville board will discuss the policy at its July 1 meeting (7 pm at the district headquarters, 22210 SW Stafford Road, West Linn). Rogue Central recommends all district parents attend--and bring their tape recorders.