Defining the Law
This ruling falls under the Texas Education Code, section 29.022, which requires school districts to implement audio and visual recordings of special education classrooms upon the request of a staff member, trustee or parent. The attorney general has clarified some misconceptions about this new law. If surveillance is requested, every school in the district must comply. The district must cover the costs of installation, the equipment, and its maintenance. Since the purpose of these recordings is to keep students safe, all recordings are confidential. Recordings are only viewed by request. Detailed information pertaining to this new law can be found at the Texas Association of School Boards.
- Increases safety. Safety is the main reason why this law went into effect. After Breggett Rideau found out that a teacher had abused her son in the classroom, she quit her job and became an advocate for cameras in the classroom. She testified before the Texas House and Senate which agreed that surveillance could have prevented this abuse, Texas made it a law to provide surveillance if requested. Safety is a priority for every school’s learning environment. This is just one more way of keeping students safe, especially those in special education classrooms who may not be able to advocate for their own safety.
- Decreases bullying. Research shows that bullying is more common for those students with some form of disability. Bullying can cause long-lasting problems. With audio recordings of the classroom, where peers interact, cameras can deter or identify bullies. Texas’s legislation will aid in deterring students from being mistreated by staff and students alike.
- Privacy concerns. Cameras in the classroom bring up the big concern of privacy. If a surveillance system is requested for a classroom, other parents may not want their child’s privacy invaded. This new law does require parents and teachers to be notified of the surveillance. However, under this new law, they do not have a right to opt out. Because the purpose of the taping is safety, parents don’t have a choice in the matter.
- Increases costs. Since every school in a district must place cameras in their special education classrooms if requested, the price of this decision can be costly for school districts. The legislature did not provide funding to assist the school systems in implementing this new law. With districts already struggling for funding, additional costs become yet another issue for schools in determining where to make cuts without jeopardizing other services. Educational commissioner, Mike Morath, estimates “that conducting video surveillance district-wide could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $6.8 million.”
While the controversy over cameras in the classroom continues, both sides can agree on a few key factors. Procedures need to be put in place to protect those who may not be capable of protecting themselves. All students deserve to be treated with dignity. All students deserve respect. And all students deserve to learn in a safe environment.