How Many Voiceless Kids Could a Camera Save from Harm?

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Can a child with an IEP be recorded, filmed, or photographed in the classroom?

The US Supreme Court has held that students do not have a right to privacy in the classroom – and this includes kids with disabilities in special education programs.

Federal laws that are intended to protect the privacy of students focus on education records.

Federal laws designed to protect the privacy of students do not prohibit cameras that record a child in the classroom.

Making the Case for Cameras in the Classroom

There is a legitimate concern about child abuse in the classroom and the probability that cameras might lower the frequency of these incidents.

Many parents and advocates believe cameras in classrooms are the only thing that will protect children who can’t defend themselves, especially disabled kids, isolated in self-contained public school classrooms.

Other school district district personnel and teacher’s unions argue it’s unfair to use cameras to record thousands of educators in an attempt to prevent the misconduct of a few.

Updated 08/19/17

Can cameras protect special-needs kids from abuse? [no longer available] asks “why is it in 21st century America, a world in which nearly everyone is under some kind of surveillance, that those who run our public schools believe their most vulnerable students should be purposely denied this protection?”

The article above about a series of reports from Houston’s Fox 26 News reporter Greg Googan is no longer available. You can read about it in this 2013 Texas Observer post – Parents of Abused Children Plead for Cameras in Special Ed Classrooms.

The investigation in Texas led to the law that went into effect in 2016 requiring that cameras be installed in self-contained education classrooms at parent or teacher request.

“The law … applies to all of the state’s public schools and charters, and to any self-contained classroom in which at least half the students receive special-ed services for at least half the day.”

Cameras in Special Ed. Classrooms a Complex Issue

Coming To Texas: Special-Ed Cams To Protect Students From Their Own Teachers

Texas Education Agency Reviews Calm Room Use Following NBC 5 Investigation

The courts have repeatedly held that students in school have fewer privacy rights than when they are out of school.

Cameras are acceptable in hallways and classrooms. Cameras are not acceptable in bathrooms or locker rooms where there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

Video of children, with or without IEPs, on school cameras used for surveillance of school property is considered a public record. Images of students captured on security videotapes that are maintained by the school’s law enforcement unit are not considered education records under FERPA.

More Resources

Privacy, Confidentiality, Education Records

Legal Aspects of the Use of Video Cameras in Schools, Department of Justice

  1. Child abuse is increasing nowadays and I believe security cameras could prevent this to an extent. I did not mean it could prevent it completely but it will let us know how kids are being treated in a particular place, say a classroom. So what I think is we should promote the use of surveillance cameras in classrooms. I have the home surveillance camera installed at my home and it works great. I could know if my kids made it home safely from school. So I highly suggest you all to consider one in every classrooms. Save our kids.

  2. I too have mixed views. Our high school has cameras in the classrooms and in teachers’ offices as well. Recently my daughter was called to a teacher’s office at the end of the school day. She has ASD. When she arrived in the office, the teacher did not ask her to sit down, so she stood. The teacher was angry and started yelling at her. My daughter was so stunned and scared by the anger and yelling that she could not speak. She froze.

    Two months later the school tried to use the video tape of this “incident” to show that my daughter displayed aggression towards the teacher (because she was standing by the teacher’s desk) and that the teacher was concerned for her safety. Incidentally, there is no audio with the video.

    Fortunately, I had documented this incident in our daily log when it happened so we were able to disprove the allegation. Very disturbing!

    • This is disturbing to say the least. My concern is with the school more inclined to protect the teacher more so then the children. Has this been resolved since momx3

      • Rose – thanks for participating in the Wrightslaw Way Blog, your comment brought our attention to an older post from 2013. The link listed in this article is no longer available. We’ve just updated the post with links to information about the investigation in Texas that led to the law, effective 2016, requiring cameras be installed in self-contained education classrooms at parent or teacher request.

        “The law … applies to all of the state’s public schools and charters, and to any self-contained classroom in which at least half the students receive special-ed services for at least half the day.”

        If you are interested in special education in Texas, here is another investigative series you will want to read – “Denied” from the Houston Chronicle.

  3. I have mixed views on this topic. I believe cameras can play a beneficial role in holding stakeholders accountable for various behaviors. I have worked in a school that had cameras in the classroom and used them against educators even if that educator did nothing wrong. If cameras are allowed in the classroom, then all parties need to be clear on how that information will be used.

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