Cameras in Student Classrooms

During the 2015 session, the Texas legislature passed a law requiring video taping in certain special education classrooms in Texas public schools. Now known as Texas Education Code 29.022, this law requires “video surveillance in certain special education settings in order to promote student safety. TEC, §29.022(k), authorizes the commissioner to adopt rules to implement and administer TEC, §29.022, including rules regarding the special education settings to which the section applies”.  The law went into effect for the 2016-2017 school year.

The law allows a parent, trustee or staff member to make a request to have a camera installed in a self-contained classroom. However, the TEA’S definition of parent is “a person…whose child receives special education and related services for at least 50 percent of the instructional day in the self-contained classroom or other special education setting, or a student who receives special education and related services for at least 50 percent of the instructional day in the classroom or setting who is no longer legally a minor.” The rules define trustee as “a member of a school district’s board of trustees or a member of an open-enrollment charter school’s governing body.” In September 2016, the Texas Attorney General clarified that “staff member” is defined as anyone who is employed by the organization (i.e. the charter school or school district).

It’s important to note that the law covers only certain classrooms. The law was set up to protect special education students who may not be able to communicate if there is a certain concern.  For that purpose, TEA’s rules define self-contained classroom as a classroom on a regular campus in which a majority of the students in regular attendance are provided special education and related services and have one of nine specific instructional arrangement codes in the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook indicating that the student receives special education services (43, 44, 45, 84, 85, 89, 94, 95, and 98). The rules define other special education setting as a classroom on a separate campus (i.e., a campus that serves only students receiving special education and related services) in which a majority of the students in regular attendance have one of two instructional arrangement codes indicating the student’s placement at the separate campus (86 and 96).

What kind of schools does this law apply to?

Texas Education Code 29.022 covers public school districts and open-enrollment charter schools in Texas.

What is the process to have a camera installed in the classroom?

Video cameras in the classroom are not present unless triggered by a request. The rule does not state if the request needs to be put into writing; however, once the request is received the campus principal has 10 business district days to respond. The principal may give the requestor an estimated timeline for when cameras would be installed and operational. Also, a request for cameras to be placed within one special education classroom is not just that. As the law is written, the request also may cover every applicable special education classroom in the district.

Do the parents of all students in the class need to give t consent to have a camera placed within the classroom?

No. However before a camera is installed under Section 29.022, a district must provide written notice to all school staff and to the parents of students receiving special education in the classroom or setting.

What areas of the classroom can be recorded?

Video cameras must cover all areas of an applicable classroom, except that video surveillance is prohibited inside of a bathroom or any other area in which a student’s clothes are changed. The district must, however, record audio from all areas of the classroom or setting. This does not mean that audio equipment is required in every locker room or restroom where a student receiving special education might change clothes. Rather, the duty to record video or audio depends on whether the location meets the statutory criteria based on the students in regular attendance.

Who pays for the camera installation and video storage?

The district/school must incur the cost.

Who can view the recording?

Section 29.022 spells out specific circumstances in which a district must allow viewing of the recording to an employee or a parent of a student who is involved in an incident documented by the recording for which a complaint has been reported to the district. In addition, district officials may be required to release a recording for viewing by law enforcement, the Department of Family and Protective Services, or the State Board for Educator Certification personnel for investigation purposes. The parent cannot request to view the video footage for any other reason.

While Texas is the first state to require cameras in special-education classrooms, other

states have followed suit. Georgia now allows voluntary recording of special education classrooms and other states are attempting to pass legislation to do likewise.

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