Schools are choosing to video record special ed classrooms with or without state support. Here’s why.

A Nevada district found that video recording “improved both student and staff safety”
By: | November 14, 2019
While cameras in special ed classrooms are allowed in several states, some districts are improving student and teacher safety by implementing their own school surveillance GOLFX

While several states have laws that either require or allow the use of cameras in special ed classrooms, some districts are pursuing their own school surveillance policies to improve student and teacher safety.

Lyon County School District in Nevada recently installed cameras to continuously record special ed classrooms after the district board approved the policy in September, Margaret Heim, assistant to the superintendent, tells District Administration.

Before the vote, a specially formed committee had “determined that the use of video recording improved both student and staff safety,” according to a district memo.

Classrooms with cameras running full-time now have notifications posted to alert classroom visitors, and the district keeps recordings for at least 60 days, unless requested by a court order, subpoena or otherwise pursuant to law, according to the district’s school surveillance policy. 

From DA: States require cameras in special ed classrooms

Meanwhile, Texas, Georgia and West Virginia have enacted legislation that either requires or allows the use of cameras in special ed classrooms, reported DA

While Nevada doesn’t have such a law, similar legislation could have saved Clark County School District $1.2 million after the district agreed to pay the amount this year to three families to settle a multiyear lawsuit over the physical and verbal abuse by district personnel of three nonverbal autistic students, Steven Miller, a senior vice president at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said in a Las Vegas Review-Journal op-ed.

From DA: Schools deploy smarter surveillance cameras

While Texas law requires schools to have one camera installed in a special ed setting upon parent request, the Dallas ISD school board plans to vote this month on whether to install cameras in every self-contained special ed room regardless if a parent asked the district to do so, reported The Dallas Morning News

The board says this policy would protect falsely accused teachers of wrongdoing and students who have difficulties communicating incidents, though administrators are concerned about the costs and the possibility that the policy could drive teachers away, The Dallas Morning News reported.

Planning a school surveillance policy? Be clear

When planning to install cameras in special ed classrooms, administrators must clearly state what the process will be, Interim Chief Technology Officer Scott Gilhousen of Houston ISD, told DA. “Vendors need to understand your timelines and you need to understand how to prioritize the work, and you have multiple departments involved,” said Gilhousen, whose district now has cameras in special ed classrooms ever since the Texas law went into effect. 

Also, consider using your existing vendors, said Gilhousen. Houston ISD partnered with Salient Systems, which already handles the district’s general surveillance, to provide cameras, microphones, a digital video recording system, and software to archive and search footage. Recordings are stored on campus, separately from the general surveillance footage, so that only authorized users have access.

Related: The surveillance of our youth

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