Cameras could be coming to special education classrooms in Texas

New law permits cameras in class at parents' request

SAN ANTONIO – This fall, an extra set of eyes could be on students in special education classrooms throughout the state.

A new law would allow for cameras to be installed at a parent's request.

Northside Independent School District sees several flaws with the new legislation, including privacy for the children.

On Monday, special education teacher Jose Colon worked with students on their social skills in the behavior management center at Garcia Middle School.

Students in the class have a hard time controlling their emotions.

This fall, at the request of just one parent, special education teachers, like Colon, can be filmed.

"As employees, I don't feel like people want the impression that the people you're working so hard for don’t trust you," Colon said.

The Texas Education Agency has not yet said how it wants school districts to implement the law.

"The law requires that if a parent, mom No. 1, says, 'I want a camera in my child's classroom,' but mom No. 2, No. 3, No. 4 don't want you, mom No. 1, to have video of my kids in the same classroom, therein lies a dilemma that hasn't been solved yet," said Pascual Gonzalez, executive director of communications at NISD.

Northside ISD officials don't believe the state has thought the law through. The district doesn't feel they have proper guidance on what exactly they're supposed to do and doesn't have the money to install the cameras.
At this point, districts would take on a huge financial burden.

Smaller districts in the thousands and bigger districts, like NISD, estimate the price tag in the million dollar range.

"This video surveillance will protect the teacher against allegations, and it will also protect the child. So in the long run, it is possibly a very good thing, but the state really needs to step up and establish rules that are fair to all parties," Gonzalez said.

While the logistics get sorted, Colon said there is only one thing to do.

"I think the best thing we can do is exactly what we're doing, be great educators," he said.

The bill’s author, state Sen. Eddie Lucio D-Brownsville said he understands the financial burden that can be placed on larger districts that have thousands of classrooms.

“The statute includes two ways for districts to run cameras. First is through a grant program administered by TEA. The specifics of the program are pending” Lucio said “The bill also allows for private donations. I've heard from individuals and organizations around the state that are already working on this important purpose.”

Lucio said that questions about budget and privacy will be answered at a Senate Committee on Education meeting in McAllen this Wednesday where they will meet at the Quinta Mazatlan at 9a.m.

Members of the public are allowed to attend and give remarks.

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