Texas law requiring cameras in special ed classrooms up for debate

(Brandon Wade/AP Images)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Parents will have an opportunity to voice their opinions about a law that requires surveillance cameras in special education classrooms statewide.

On Monday, the Texas Education Agency will hold a public hearing about a change to the law. Attorney General Ken Paxton wants more specific language on who can request the cameras.

The law mandates school districts to install cameras if a parent, school staff member, or trustee requests it. Paxton wants clarification on what a “staff member” is. The cameras can only be installed in a room where at least half of the students are classified as special ed, and those students meet there for at least half of the school day.

Concerns that children in special education classrooms are being mistreated by educators sparked what many say is a necessary law. Leander ISD installed eight cameras and three microphones after numerous parent requests.

Under the law, 100 of LISD’s special ed classrooms meet the criteria for a camera, but buying them all at once would cost between $800,000 to $1 million. School districts tell KXAN the state has not provided any money for them to put toward the technology, software or storage of video which must be saved for at least six months.

“It would be great if they just went ahead and did it without having to be asked,” said LISD parent Mindy Hopkins. “I don’t know what goes on in my child’s classroom. I’m not allowed to volunteer in it. I’m not allowed to go in it at all during the day.”

In Williamson County, police are investigating claims that a substitute teacher’s aide injured a special education student. Seven-year-old Zakary Thompson has autism, ADHD and epilepsy. The mother says her son threw a bottle of hand-sanitizer at the teacher, and then the teacher rubbed it in Zak’s eyes. Medical records from a hospital visit that night, show Zak’s eyes were exposed to chemicals, along with blunt trauma on several parts of his body.

So far, Austin ISD says they have only received one or two requests for cameras in a special ed classroom and are working on processing them. They currently have no cameras installed in special education classrooms.

The hearing will take place at 8:30 a.m. at the William B. Travis building on 1701 North Congress Ave.

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