Dear Dawg: Do we REALLY have to put a camera in every special education classroom when a single parent requests it????

The authors of SB 507 have written a letter to Commissioner Williams seeking to guide the Commissioner’s adoption of rules.  This is the bill that requires cameras to be installed in every “self-contained” classroom.  The bill states that the district is required to provide these cameras only upon request. But “request” from whom?

The exact language of the new law provides that the duty to record in the classroom arises “upon request by a parent, trustee, or staff member.”  Does that mean any parent in the district can request cameras district-wide?  Senator Lucio and Representative Senfronia Thompson, co-authors of the bill, have written to Commissioner Williams expressing their intent behind the term “a parent.” The legislators say that the term was intended to apply ONLY to a parent of a child in a specific classroom.  Thus if Mrs. Jones has a child in the elementary school “Life Skills” unit, and Mrs. Jones requests video surveillance of the classroom, the district would only be required to put the equipment in the Life Skills unit of the elementary school.  The request by Mrs. Jones would not trigger a duty to provide cameras in other units.

The letter to Commissioner Williams also indicates that “a staff member” should be read only to mean the teacher of that particular unit.

We shall see what Commissioner Williams does about this. For sure, some clarification is desperately needed, and needed soon.

One other interesting wrinkle to this bill: it’s pretty clear that the term “a trustee” means just what it says. Thus it may turn out that not every parent, and not every staff member can require the installation of security cameras in the special education classrooms. But any school board member can.  Regardless of how Commissioner Williams interprets the terms “a parent” and “a staff member” it seems there can be little debate about “a trustee.”

This is the only instance I know of in which a law empowers a single school board member to exercise power as an individual.