Cameras in the classroom: how confidential are they?

Texas has a law that authorizes the use of cameras in self-contained classrooms that serve our most vulnerable children.  In a pending special education due process hearing, the attorney representing the parent sought the disclosure of a considerable amount of video footage from the cameras in the classroom.  The district opposed this, arguing that state law protects the confidentiality of this footage. The Education Code authorizes its release only to certain parties, and only in the context of an accusation of abuse or neglect of the student.  In this case, no one alleged abuse or neglect. The lawyer argued that the videos should be disclosed because they would provide relevant evidence of how the district was serving the student. 

The hearing officer originally assigned to the case ordered the district to disclose the videos.  Believing that this order violated the Education Code, the district (Spring Branch ISD) took the matter to T.E.A., but the Commissioner ruled that he did not have the authority to override a special education hearing officer.  So the district sought a “writ of mandamus” from the district court in Travis County.  Multiple educator organizations, comprising both teachers and administrators, supported that effort.

Then: a surprise.  Before the Travis County judge did anything with the case, the due process hearing was assigned to a second hearing officer who issued an order overruling the original order.  The ruling: the video footage is confidential and should not be disclosed in a special education hearing.

This is likely to come up again, but when it does, the district will cite Order No. 8 in Docket No. 285-SE-0620, signed by Stacy May from the State Office of Administrative Hearings.


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