TEA has just published proposed rules on SB 507 concerning the videotapping of special education classrooms.  The comment period runs until May 9th, 2016. At that time TEA staff will review the comments, and finalize the rules. They hope to have the rules go into effect by June 16, 2016.

So, what will these changes mean for your child?  Our Education Specialist, Chuck Noe, breaks down the proposed rules:

Key terms are defined.
There are no apparent issues with terms: parent, staff member, or trustee. “Self-contained classroom” is only those classes on a regular school campus. “Other special education setting” means a classroom on a separate campus (i.e., a campus that serves only students who receive special education and related services). Video camera means a video surveillance camera with audio recording capabilities. Video equipment means one or more video cameras and any technology and equipment needed to place, operate, and maintain video cameras. Video equipment also means any technology and equipment needed to store and access video recordings.

“Incident means an event or circumstance that: (A) involves alleged “abuse” or “neglect,” as those terms are described in Texas Family Code, §261.001, of a student by an employee of the school district or charter school or alleged “physical abuse” or “sexual abuse,” as those terms are described in Texas Family Code, §261.410, of a student by another student; or (B) allegedly occurred in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which video surveillance under TEC, §29.022, and this section is conducted.” So actions by school staff and other students are covered. One issue or question will be whether it should say “or” or “and”. Saying “or” broadens the scope of investigations. This week at the TCASE special ed legal conference, the attorney discussing this law said that she thought this was a typo and should say “and”.

IDEA and state special ed funds cannot be used to implement this law.
Complaints alleging violations of TEC, §29.022, and/or this section must be addressed through the district’s or charter school’s local grievance procedures or other dispute resolution channels. The processes in IDEA for dealing with complaints and disagreements do not apply.

Decisions regarding video surveillance when extended school year services are provided are left to local discretion.
This does not make sense. Why would this not be required? If this is not changed in the final rules, I would hope that school attorneys would tell schools that it would be a huge liability issue if they chose to not use the equipment during the summer. Hopefully there will be enough concern from the public that the final rules will require surveillance during ESY.

Districts must have policies addressing this law.
“At a minimum, the policies must include: (1) a statement that video surveillance is for the purpose of promoting student safety in certain self-contained classrooms and other special education settings; (2) the procedures for requesting video surveillance; (3) the procedures for providing written notice to the campus staff and the parents of the students assigned to a self-contained classroom or other special education setting that video and audio surveillance will be conducted in the classroom or setting;
(4) a requirement that video cameras be operated at all times during the instructional day when students are in the self-contained classroom or other special education setting; (5) a statement regarding the individuals who will have access to video cameras and video recordings and the roles and responsibilities of those individuals; (6) a requirement that a campus continue to operate and maintain any video camera placed in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting for as long as the classroom or setting continues to satisfy the requirements in TEC, §29.022(a); (7) a requirement that video cameras placed in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting be capable of recording video and audio of all areas of the classroom or setting, except that no video surveillance may be conducted of the inside of a bathroom or other area used for toileting or diapering a student or removing or changing a student’s clothes; (8) a statement that video recordings must be retained for at least six months after the date the video was recorded; (9) a statement that the regular or continual monitoring of video is prohibited and that video recordings must not be used for routine teacher evaluation or monitoring or for any purpose other than the promotion of student safety; (10) at the school district’s or open-enrollment charter school’s discretion, a requirement that campuses post a notice at the entrance of any self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which video cameras are placed stating that video and audio surveillance are conducted in the classroom or setting; (11) the procedures for reporting a complaint alleging that an incident occurred in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which video surveillance is conducted; (12) the local grievance procedures for filing a complaint alleging violations of TEC, §29.022, ; and (13) a statement that video recordings are confidential and a description of the limited circumstances under which the recordings may be viewed.”

“The regular and continual monitoring of video” is not defined.
This appears to be written to address fears of teachers. If there are indications that inappropriate actions might be occurring why wouldn’t an administrator want to use this resource?

Recordings are to only be viewed by: “(1) a staff member or other school district or charter school employee or a parent of a student involved in an incident described in subsection (b)(9) of this section that is documented by a video recording for which a complaint has been reported to the district or charter school; (2) appropriate Texas Department of Family and Protective Services personnel as part of an investigation under Texas Family Code, §261.406; (3) a peace officer, school nurse, or administrator trained in de-escalation and restraint techniques as provided by commissioner rule or a human resources staff member designated by the school district’s board of trustees or open-enrollment charter school’s governing body in response to a complaint or an investigation of an incident … or (4) appropriate Texas Education Agency or State Board for Educator Certification personnel or agents as part of an investigation.”

If a person “views a video recording and has cause to believe that the recording documents possible abuse or neglect of a child under Texas Family Code, Chapter 261, the person must notify the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services or other authority”.

If a person “ views a video recording and believes that it documents a possible violation of school district, open enrollment charter school, or campus policy, the person may allow (should this say must allow?) access to the recording to appropriate legal and human resources personnel of the district or charter school to the extent not limited by FERPA or other law. A recording believed to document a possible violation of school district, open-enrollment charter school, or campus policy may be used in a disciplinary action against district or charter school personnel and must be released in a legal proceeding at the request of a parent of the student involved in the incident documented by the recording.”

For more information about the proposed rules, visit the TEA website at www.tea.texas.gov; Comments on the proposed rules can be emailed to: rules@tea.texas.gov.