In June 2015, Texas was the first state in the union to pass a video law to protect special needs students. Most parents still don’t know about it. I was stunned to find out the power the state equipped me with to protect my child in ways I previously had only wished I could. Texas Education Code section 29.022 states that a parent, trustee, or staff member can request a camera be placed in a special education room. These rules took effect on August 15, 2016.
As an educator, I have contemplated the discomfort it would cause me to be recorded all of my working hours. But when I became the parent of a nonverbal child attending school, my thinking quickly changed about the value of cameras in the classroom. Last year when a friend’s son told his mother about the abuse that was happening in his special education classroom, I began to contemplate how my nonverbal child would communicate abuse he suffered. Most likely he wouldn’t be able to, so I would have to rely on a verbal student in the classroom relaying the incident to even know anything happened.
At that point, I would file a formal complaint with the school district. From that moment on, it would be in their hands. An investigation would either end in the accused being removed from his or her position or not. If the accused was removed from his position without criminal charges being pressed, he or she would then be free to go to another school district without a paper trail of the incident following behind.
If criminal charges were pressed, someone would have to testify or take on the burden of proof to incriminate the accused. It is extremely hard for a typical kid to endure trial prep. A special needs kid would have an even harder time with the process. Unfortunately, the word of an inarticulate disabled kid against an educator or school district would not fair well.
But if you request a camera installation, the professionals will think long and hard before mishandling a student. Even though their audience might be unable to retell the happenings of the day, the footage will disclose the truth. The Texas attorney general ruled on Sept. 13, 2016, that once a parent requests video surveillance in one classroom, the district must install cameras in every applicable classroom districtwide.
There is a Catch 22. As always, we as parents of handicapped children have to constantly fight against discrimination. Nothing in the law requires the cameras be installed in a certain period of time. So, we must be vigilant. Please pass on the word and request a camera today.