Parents and kids testify for cameras in special education classrooms

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A New Braunfels mother, angry about the way her third-grader was kept in Focus Room isolation at Carl Schurz Elementary School, was among those who testified Thursday at the state Capitol.

Along with other parents, children and police, Lillian Snowden was there to support a bill that would require cameras in any Texas classroom where there are vulnerable special needs kids, and require cameras in an isolation room where any child may be kept. Supporters maintain such children are often unable to tell anyone what was done to them, and any child in isolation will find it is their word against the school’s.

Breggett Rideau came from the North Texas town of Keller to testify about what happened to her handicapped son, Terrance.

“The principal did an investigation and we won the largest verdict in the history of the United States on what happened to my son, but the bad thing is that’s just how bad the teacher hurt my son,” said Rideau. “Cameras could have prevented that.”

Beth Watson brought her 11-year old-autistic son, Micah, to Austin from Plano. and asked him in front of the House Education Committee.

“Do you think cameras can prevent what happened to you from happening to another child?” she asked her son in front of the House Education Committee.

“Yes,” Micah replied.

“Would this bill to put cameras in every special education classroom help your friends who can’t talk?” she asked her son.

Again, Micah answered “yes.”

Snowden posted pictures of her 9-year-old son, Alex, in school isolation, prompting the school district to launch an investigation. She believes cameras would show how her son was behaving, what was done to him and whether the school was telling the truth.

“They denied the temperature of that room, the duration, the reason he was there,” Snowden added. “That’s why we need cameras.”

“Many of these children are incapable of expressing their experience,” said Stacy Ford, president of the nonprofit group Coalition of Human Rights Policy Advocates. “Without cameras no one may know and there is no evidence of what occurred.”

“Please pass this bill,” Rideau pleaded as testimony wound down for the night.

The full Senate has already approved the bill, where it is currently in a House committee. Advocates argue cameras could also prove a teacher innocent of any misbehavior, so it cuts both ways.

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