Legislation may be in the works across the United States, starting with the state of Texas. We’ll give you some insight into this law, and provide recommendations for how we at Homeland Safety Systems can impact your school in a positive way.

Video Surveillance in Special Education Classrooms Background

In 2015, an eight-year-old, high-functioning autistic child, by the name of Micha, was sent to elementary school in Texas. When his mother prompted about his day, he told her he was put in the “quiet room”, which she later found was a seclusionary time out. Micha informed his mother that his teacher pulled his shoes off of his feet and threw him on the ground. Upon further questioning, the mother learned that during the course of time out, Micha screamed.

Cameras in the classroom, as well as the “quiet room”,  captured the ordeal taking place over several hours. Footage shows the child screaming and kicking the walls, while the teacher shuts the door completely closed, which is a violation of Texas Law, and a multitude of other state’s laws, as well.

A local news channel caught wind, and because of open records laws were able to broadcast Micha’s story, causing the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to investigate.

Why Special Education Classrooms Need Video Surveillance

Although only 12% of students receive special needs services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), out of this 12%:

  • 58%  are placed in seclusion-type “time out” or “quiet rooms”
  • 75% are restrained to limit physical mobility

During the 2011-2012 school year, 70,000 students with and without disabilities were subject to restraint using physical force. Although the outrage of parents is evident, and students are showing disapproval, there are still that 12% who may not be able to communicate their needs.

Students with special needs can, and often do, engage in behaviors that could potentially hurt themselves or someone else unintentionally. When this happens, the staff is almost required to physically restrain them and pull them away from other students. However, there is a correct and incorrect way to do this.

Two states, Texas and Georgia, have already passed legislation for cameras to be placed in special education classrooms. The use of surveillance systems in special education classes stems from the need to protect students who cannot speak for themselves. In some cases, teachers welcome it. They see it as a way to clear their name or any doubt about what happens in their classroom. While on the other hand, other teachers are pushing back, saying it’s a violation of their privacy. Others claim that placing surveillance cameras in special education classrooms may be a knee jerk reaction to high profile cases.

The public desire for additional transparency through surveillance, especially with respect to special education classrooms is widespread and at this point, they feel as if it is a necessity. This trend hopes to change and enforce the limits on school’s restraint and engagement policies, more specifically restraint and seclusion of special needs students. In an effort to start the process, many school systems started enforcing legislation that restricted teachers from restraining students. Examples of this legislation include:

  • 35 states limit schools’ ability to restrain and seclude students with special needs or disabilities
  • 36 states require notification to the parents of students with disabilities that a restraint took place
  • 28 of those 36 require that the notification take place the same day, or within one day of the event

Once these laws were enacted, this began to spark questions among many concerned parents. Policy discussions surrounding the schools use of restraints and seclusion began to arise with the notifications. This eventually led to the demand for more transparency in special needs classrooms via surveillance systems. As schools started investing in special education video surveillance and cases starting coming to the surface, this only intensified the demand for more transparency.

Some administrators feel as if surveillance cameras help make schools a safer place by encouraging both students and teachers, alike to not engage in mischievous or malicious acts. Tod Schneider, a security consultant, and crime prevention specialist, says that “cameras without real-time surveillance can be a waste of money and only serve as a way to assign blame after the fact.”

Is Video Surveillance in Special Needs Classrooms Legal?

The surveillance laws in special education classrooms must fall into the existing legal framework already set in place. One must consider the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), state open record laws when implementing video surveillance solutions.

FERPA

The Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) provides rights to parents of both public and private schools who receive federal funds. These rights include:

  1. The right to inspect the child’s educational records
  2. The right to prevent unauthorized people from seeing their child’s records

In order to qualify for FERPA protection, the record in question must fall under the category of “educational record”. FERPA defines a record as “any information recorded in any way-including computer media, video, audio, film…” Furthermore, FERPA defines “educational record” as any record, file, documentation, or any other material that contains information related to the student and maintained by an educational agency (34 C.F.R. 99.3).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act

IDEA relies heavily on the FERPA definitions mentioned above. IDEA requires outside agencies that work with students who fall under the IDEA category to also give the parents access to any and all student information, particularly with respect to the Individualized Education Program and procedures surrounding dispute resolutions. Parents are afforded the opportunity to review education records with respect to :

  • Child’s identification
  • Child’s evaluation
  • Educational placement of the child
  • Provision of FAPE (Free and Appropriate Public Education)

This means, by a very basic standard, that if the school chooses to destroy any records, all special needs parents whose child falls under either category, must be immediately notified beforehand. On the other hand, if the parent of a special needs student requests that the file destroyed, the school must take the necessary channels to comply. Destruction aside, most states require that the special education records be kept for several years after the student graduates or ages out of their program.

Special Education Classrooms Video Surveillance Conclusion

Since an educational record includes video surveillance, the continuous recording of special education classrooms shows evidence of proper IEP administration being carried out to make sure FAPE qualifications are met. If IEP is at the core of the school, making IDEA the core of each incident, the justification is there for administrators to monitor special needs classrooms. Installing video surveillance cameras in special needs classrooms will allow schools to be more proactive instead of reactive when negative situations arise.

For over sixteen years, we continue to provide extensive security risk assessments an install complete safety solutions all across Louisiana, Arkansas, and Mississippi. For more information contact Homeland Safety Systems, Inc. at 888-909-2261 or fill out our contact form here!