Texas bill mandates cameras in special education classes

The clock and security camera of corridor ceiling
New legislation in Texas calls for cameras to be placed in special education classrooms

Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed new legislation into law June 19, requiring cameras to be placed in all classrooms consisting primarily of special education students.

“We heard testimony from students with special needs and parents whose lives have been forever changed by mistreatment in the classroom,” state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., who authored the legislation, explained to Disability Scoop. “It is my intention that the presence of cameras in these students’ classrooms will provide evidence in cases of abuse, and will also protect teachers who face wrongful accusations.”

The law, believed to be the first of its type in the nation, states that videotape footage should only be used for purposes related to “safety,” “cocurricular or extracurricular activity,” “classroom instruction,” or “media coverage of the school.”

The videos are confidential, except when used in response to a complaint of abuse or neglect or as part of an investigation by the Department of Family and Social Services, among other reasons. It goes into effect at the beginning of the school year starting in Fall 2016.

The bill received feedback from some educators concerned about the costs of the cameras. The measures does not include state funding to assist educational districts with installing and maintaining the cameras.

“No money is appropriated for this. The bill only diverts already appropriated funds that would be used for other purposes,” said David Anderson, a lobbyist who represents Arlington Independent School District, told the Houston Chronicle. “If cameras in these classrooms is a legislative priority, the bill sponsors should have fought for a specific funding rider.”

The bill represents a victory for Breggett Rideau, a Texas mother who has advocated for the bill for nine years. Her son Terrance, who has acute encephalopathy, was allegedly abused repeatedly in a special education classroom. His special education teacher allegedly was eating his lunch and slamming his head into a wall, according to the Houston Chronicle.

A 2013 jury awarded Rideau’s family $1 million in 2013, but the verdict was thrown out on appeal and is currently back at the trial court.

A video about the bill from Autism Daily Newscast can be seen here.