- Texas State Legislature
TX State House: Video Cameras in Special Education Classrooms
The comment sections in news articles reporting on abuse against special education students reveal how people in our society honestly feel about this issue. Some people adamantly reject the idea of placing video cameras in special education classrooms as an additional safety measure. People are concerned about the privacy rights of teachers and students. People feel there is already too much money given to special education programs. And some people believe no assistance should be given to individuals that will never be productive citizens in society.
This Has Nothing To Do With ME
This issue is not about privacy, nor is it about more money being spent, nor is it about "some" special education students that will never be productive citizens. This issue is about how we as a society treat those that are unable to protect themselves. That is what is at the heart of this matter. Moreover, where one stands on this issue, is exactly why our society is as it is and will continue to be this way.
These issues may not be “your” problem at this time, but parents of special education students are productive citizens in society that have all the same concerns as other parents. Parents want the best for their children. Parents do their best to juggle family, work, and life the best way they can. Parents desire to see their children as an extension of their hard-working efforts in years to come. Parents of children with special needs rely on educational support as much as parents of children without special needs. Parents of children with special needs contribute as much to the community and government as parents of children without special needs. Also, just like other parents, these parents want their children protected.
Breeding Ground for Abuse
Special education classrooms are a breeding ground for abuse. Many children in these settings have developmental disorders that disable their cognitive abilities to express themselves verbally. Many children in these classrooms are unable to communicate, meaning they are unable to answer questions such as, "How was school today?" One parent described it like this:
"Unlike typical children, autistic children don't realize they are being abused. They may think "this is what school is supposed to be like". Also, many special needs kids are nonverbal. So even if they knew things were not right, they might be unable to tell parents or authorities that they are being abused. This empowers those very few hateful teachers who are isolated from responsibility and accountability by their protective administration system". - Joe Lippeatt (Houston, Texas)
Special education teachers and the students they teach are the most vulnerable populations on every public school campus. There are little accountability and oversight within the special education classroom in regards to safety and prevention. Many parents are not called until days later about incidents involving their child. School administrators are more concerned with ensuring their special education teachers "trust" them than they are for the safety and protection of the special education students in the classrooms. An administrator in one district put it like this, "It is hard to find special education teachers and putting video cameras in the classroom will make the teacher feel as if we don't trust them". It is because of attitudes like this that some teachers accused of abusing a child are not fired but only transferred to another school. Furthermore, some teachers accused of using aversive disciplinary methods are allowed to keep their jobs. Hot Sauce On Crayons?
One reason abuse may occur in this education setting is because of a perceived lack of oversight. This lack of oversight leads to the mind-frame "I will not be caught in the act". What other reason would allow the mind of someone to think it is "ok" to soak cotton balls in vinegar and shove them in a student's mouth as a form of discipline? Would any parent stand for this? Hopefully not! Not a parent that cares for the safety and well-being of their children. And that is why parents across the United States are requesting video cameras in public school special education classrooms: A Grassroots Movement Is Stirring!
This is a matter of the heart
Imagine the hearts of parents that have - noticed bruises on their child’s body - found out that their child's hair was ripped out and then the child was closed in a filing cabinet - made to eat hot sauce covered crayons - had water sprayed into their face at point blank range - slapped, pushed, & beaten - made to sit in a closet/store room for extended periods of time without food or water. Here Is A Recent & Related News Report.
These children are innocent, and their parents are functioning members of this society. These children deserve protection just as much as any child in our society. As a society, are we really arguing over whether or not to implement better safety measures that will protect innocent children from aversive disciplinary methods?
Section 26.009 of the Texas Education Code expressly allows the videotaping of students without parental approval for the purpose of child safety.
Roberts v. Houston ISD (1990)
There have been a limited amount of court cases involving video cameras in the public school setting but here in Texas we have had Roberts v. Houston ISD (1990). The decision in this case found that the video surveillance of teaching in a public school classroom is an activity that is legally permissible because teaching is an activity that does not fall within the expected zone of privacy.
- Texas State Legislature
There are a number of parents that are concerned about the happenings within their child's special education classrooms. There are absolutely no accountability measures in place to safeguard special education children that are unable to speak. Many children within the special education setting have been diagnosed with developmental disorders that directly affect their ability to express themselves verbally. Moreover, there are special education students that are able to talk but they are unable to recognize if and when something harmful is happening to them. This type of setting is fertile ground for abuse to push its way to the surface.
Parents of special education students allow their children to leave the safety of their homes to go into an environment where the propensity for abuse is high. Many parents are fully aware and fully concerned with how helpless some special education students are in this type of environment. Many of these children are unable to alert their parents to any type of abusive action/s taken on their person. Across the United States, parents are fed up at the complete disregard by school systems in regards to innocent special education students. We believe any rationale thinker would not have an argument against the concerns of these parents. It is obvious that there should be added safeguards in public school special education classrooms.
Within many public school settings (and on many public school buses) there are already closed-circuit cameras that overlook the hallways, the play areas, the cafeteria, etc. Cameras in all public school special education classrooms should be installed in order to create a more transparent learning environment. Transparency could decrease horrible incidents of abuse against innocent children and false accusations against innocent special education teachers.
Another logical reason for the presence of video cameras in special education classrooms is because transparency could give the non-verbal student a “voice”. Furthermore, better transparency would give parents comfort in knowing school districts value the protection of their children as well as the protection of their special education teachers. A meeting with the an Aldine ISD administrator (in Texas) gave the impression that the protection of teacher's “feelings” of not being trusted were more important than the safety of disabled children that are not able to speak-up for themselves. That was very disappointing to hear.
Of course, parents of children in special education understand this may be a safeguard measure wherein which special education teachers may feel imposed upon. However, in this type of education setting, video cameras should be required to protect all parties involved. A setting where: 1) the students are unable to speak, 2) the special education teachers do not undergo any type of psychological evaluations, 3) there is a perceived lack of oversight, lending to the mind-frame “I will not be caught in the act”, and 4) the symptomatic expressions of many special education students can stir up agitation and frustration in special education teachers.
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