You want to know why we are going to have cameras in many special education classrooms next year? Consider the case of Domingo v. Kowalski, recently decided by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals.
This case is one of those sad situations in which a teacher’s aide alleged that her supervising teacher was abusing children. Where did this happen?
Kowalski’s class met in a church where Kowalski went largely unobserved by other teachers or her direct supervisors, aside from a few weekly visits from behavioral and therapeutic specialists. Further, due to the students’ limited verbal capacities, their parents relied on Kowalski’s daily classroom “journal” to keep them informed of the students’ progress. Kowalski did not reference any of the above-described teaching techniques [the things alleged by the aide] in her classroom journal, or otherwise share them with the students’ parents. [The aide] testified that Kowalski even appeared to actively conceal her activities….
There have been too many similar cases, too many similar allegations by teacher aides and/or parents. That’s why there will be cameras in the classroom next year.
In this one, the court decided the case in favor of the teacher, her supervisors and the school district. The court noted that the teacher’s actions, as alleged by the aide, were abusive. But actions that are “abusive” are not always “unconstitutional.” The parents sought relief in this case under the 14th Amendment, and that gives them a very difficult burden. They failed to satisfy it, and so, the case was dismissed.
But the case is yet another reminder of what can happen in a classroom for low functioning students that goes unobserved for too long. Concerns over that very issue are what caused our legislators to mandate cameras for classrooms, when requested.
The case of Domingo v. Kowalski was decided by the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on January 7, 2016. You can find it at 2016 WL 76213.
DAWG BONE: KEEP A CLOSE EYE ON THOSE SELF CONTAINED CLASSROOMS.