Video Cameras in Special Education Classrooms
Surveillance cameras in public spaces are becoming more and more commonplace within our society. From traffic lights, to public transportation stations, to retail stores, there is hardly a place one can go without passing through a security camera frame.
One sector that is seeing a significant uptick of this trend is education. An increasing amount of elementary schools, high schools, and universities are installing video cameras on campuses for many reasons:
- To decrease bullying and violence amongst students
- To deter vandalism and crime
- To gather evidence when meaningful events take place
- To manage COVID-19 protocols for social distancing and mask wearing
- To protect students and faculty from active school shootings and other threats
It’s clear that there are many benefits to outfitting the campus with security cameras. However, privacy advocates have been vocal about keeping cameras out of classrooms, despite their legitimate legality.
To quote myself from a previous blog piece:
“There is an idea that installing security cameras in classrooms crosses a legal line. Where surveillance in a more intimate learning setting could violate the privacy of both students and school teachers.
In truth, though it varies state by state, courts have ruled that video cameras are permissible in common areas of the school, such as hallways, classrooms and libraries, where privacy is not reasonably expected, so long as students and teachers are aware they are being recorded. However, electronic surveillance has been deemed improper in areas of the school where privacy can be reasonably expected, such as private offices, bathrooms and locker rooms.”
Most states are leaving security camera protocols up to individual school districts. But now we are starting to see sweeping legislation across some states to enforce or allow cameras in special education classrooms.
SPECIAL EDUCATION CLASSROOMS
Like many marginalized groups in this country, disabled children and their parents have to fight for equal representation and treatment in many facets of everyday life.
As some of our most vulnerable citizens, students with disabilities rely on their teachers in a much different way than their peers. Some need critical care that requires assistance with mobility and feeding. The idea that some educators are capable of hurting those they are charged to care for is almost unimaginable.
The federal government doesn’t keep records of how many children are injured in special education classrooms. But it does keep track of how many special education students are restrained and secluded at schools, which can lead to injury. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 12% of all students received services under IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) from 2013-2014. And of those, 67% were restrained or secluded.
One way to prevent this kind of abuse is to standardize the installation of security cameras in special education classrooms.
One Keller County mother was the driving force behind a Texas bill enforcing this that was passed in 2016.
Her son came home from school with severe injuries, and was unable to express what happened to him at school due to his cognitive and physical disabilities. School officials told the mother they didn’t know how her son had been injured. But she later learned that staff members had reported her son’s special education teacher for handling students roughly. This teacher had dropped her son more than once when moving him in and out of his wheelchair. If there had been cameras installed in her son’s special education classroom, the evidence would have been discovered almost immediately.
This mother fought to introduce legislation that would standardize cameras in special education classrooms across Texas. Eventually, she spent all of her retirement savings to hire a lobbyist, who helped push to pass the bill in late 2016.
Following Texas and Georgia, in 2019 West Virginia became the latest state to pass legislation pertaining to the use of security cameras in special education classrooms. This bill was sparked by an incident that took place at a school in Berkley County, WV, where an educator was caught on recording threatening a special education student with bodily harm.
Standardizing security cameras in special education classrooms is a significant move forward in the fight to protect our most vulnerable fellow humans. While it may not always prevent teachers’ horrifying behaviors towards students, it does provide evidence for a clear picture as to what happened.
Talk to an expert
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Updated: Jun 29