The legislature passed two bills dealing with cameras in the special education classrooms—SB 1398 and HB 61. We don’t know which one the governor will sign, but it doesn’t make any difference. As to cameras in the classroom, the two bills are identical. The difference in the two bills is that HB 61 includes some other provisions as well.
So even though we don’t know which one Governor Abbott will sign, we are pretty sure he will sign off on one of them. So here is a quick summary:
- Installation of cameras is triggered only by a written request.
- Cameras only get installed in self-contained classrooms and other special education settings in which a majority of students in regular attendance are assigned to that setting for at least 50% of the day. This is not new.
- A parent’s request applies only to the classroom in which the parent’s child is served—not the entire campus.
- The only staff members who can make a request are the principal, the assistant principal, and others who are assigned to work in the self-contained classroom or other special education settings.
- Only the board as a whole—not individual board members—can make a request.
- If the request comes from the board, the principal or an assistant principal, the requestor may limit the request to specific classrooms or settings.
- The district must designate a central office employee as the coordinator for the provision of equipment. (Camera Coordinator?)
- Parents, teachers, aides and the assistant principal file their request with the principal, or designee, who forwards it to the Camera Coordinator. A request from the principal or the board goes directly to the Camera Coordinator, who sends a copy to the principal.
- Once installed, the camera stays in place for the rest of the school year, and for ESY, as long as the classroom continues to qualify as a setting in which cameras can be placed, unless the requestor withdraws the request in writing. However, the camera need not operate when students are not present.
- If the district discontinues operation of the camera during a school year it must give five days’ notice to each parent in that classroom; at least 10 school days prior to the end of the year, the school must give notice to each parent that the cameras will not operate next year unless a new request is filed.
- Cameras must capture video and audio for the entire classroom, including any attached setting used for timeout.
- The inside of a bathroom or changing area may not be visually monitored, except for “incidental coverage of a minor portion” due to the layout of the room.
- As a general rule, videos must be retained for three months. Previously this requirement was for six months. However, if a request to view the video is made, then the video must be retained “until the person has viewed the recording and a determination has been made as to whether the recording documents an alleged incident.” If the recording documents an alleged incident, the recording must be retained “until the alleged incident has been resolved, including the exhaustion of all appeals.”
- An employee or the parent of a student “who is involved in an alleged incident” may view the recording upon request.
- Among the others who may have access the bill adds contractors or employees who incidentally view the recording while performing tasks relative to installation, operation and maintenance of the equipment.
- School policy must 1) include information about appealing district decisions; 2) call for a seven business day timeline for responding to a request for installation of a camera; 3) specify that if the request is denied, the response must explain why; 4) call for timelines for installation of cameras upon proper request (45 school business days); and 5) set timelines for installation based on parent requests for the following school year.
- A district, parent, staff member or administrator may request an expedited review by TEA if a request is denied. This could be a request for installation of cameras, a request to view the recording, or a request for an extension of time for activation of the equipment.
- The Commissioner is to adopt rules regarding expedited reviews.
- “A video recording under this section is a governmental record only for purposes of Section 37.10 Penal Code.” This is the section that makes it a criminal offense to tamper with a government record.
This is one of the new laws I will be featuring in my annual Back to School Tour this fall. We are bringing the BTS to nine locations in September and early October. You can register at www.legaldigestevents.com. Hope to see you there.
DAWG BONE: BE GRATEFUL: IT’S AN IMPROVEMENT.
File this one under: SPECIAL EDUCATION and LEGISLATION 2017
Tomorrow: new law orders TEA to never again use that 8.5% indicator.