Legal Q&A: Are students allowed to record classes?

Q: My district is thinking of allowing students to “tape” instruction so that they can study it later. I have serious concerns about this. Is this allowed?
No state or federal laws directly address a student’s general ability to record classroom instruction, though, as outlined below, there are rules that prohibit recording in certain circumstances. Because there is so little regulation regarding student use of personal technology, to a very great extent it is up to the local school district to determine when and how a student may use their personal device at school. These local policies are evolving as the devices become more common.
Local policies range from a strict prohibition on any use of a personal device to allowing students to individually record classroom instruction for academic purposes. Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams recently ruled that a district could adopt a policy allowing students to use their own smartphone to record classroom instruction, but only time will tell if this type of policy becomes more widespread. Since student use of technology is such a matter of local control, it is important for educators to know local policy.
There are, however, a few legal restrictions on local policy. The Texas Education Code requires parental consent before a student may be taped unless the taping is done for safety purposes or for instructional or extra-curricular purposes. So, the local policy cannot authorize a student’s taping of other students without parent consent except in these circumstances. In the commissioner’s ruling mentioned above, Williams ruled that a district could not authorize students to tape another student outside of the instructional environment without prior authorization from the parents of the student being recorded.
Student use of calculators or calculating apps on a device during state-mandated examinations is governed by the regulations related to those examinations. Again, it is important for an educator giving or monitoring a state-mandated test to know, understand and follow the regulations developed for that test.   
The legal information provided on this website is for general purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for individual legal advice or the provision of legal services. Accessing this information does not create an attorney-client relationship. Individual legal situations vary greatly, and readers should consult directly with an attorney. Eligible ATPE members should contact the ATPE Member Legal Services Department using our online system, MLSIS.
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