As more incidents of questionable school discipline confuse parents and teachers — especially involving children in special education — schools are examining cameras as a potential solution.
Leslie Brannon, an Indiana parent of an autistic child, was happy with her child’s special education teacher at Eastern Elementary School – until the day he came home from school with a bloody nose and a black eye. Since the child is non-verbal, he could not communicate to his mother what had happened to him. Lauren Slagter, writing for the Kokomo Tribune, reports that a year later, Brannon is still not sure what actually occurred in school.
The teacher told Brannon that her child had fallen into a toy box, but aides in the class told the administration that was not what had taken place. At this point, Western Schools Superintendent Randy McCracken, who oversees the Kokomo-Area Special Education Cooperative, began an investigation to discover what happened in the classroom and found that Leeder had restrained the child in a classroom chair using a strap or belt. The child was left without supervision and tipped over backward in the chair.
The Brannons are now pushing to have cameras installed in special education classrooms. School staff is against the idea, since there are policies already in place to handle any allegations of bad judgement on the part of teachers.
“I just worry about how it would be used,” Cathy Pratt, director of the Indiana Resource Center for Autism, said. “I understand families want to make sure their children are safe. I’ve heard this idea from other families, and I’m not sure how you would do that while protecting the rights of other students and the staff.”
In Union County, North Carolina, families are joining together to convince school officials of the necessity of cameras in special education classrooms. The movement comes after many parents have removed their children from school based on claims of various types of abuse.
Becky Bass removed her daughter from Monroe Middle School in April because she came home with scratches and bruises, according to WCNC-TV’s Amy Cowman. Hailey has Down syndrome and has trouble communicating, but she was able to let her mom know that her special education teacher was responsible. The school is investigating, but Bass spoke to the Union County Board of Education last week, rallying for cameras to be placed in special ed classrooms. Union County has an ongoing investigation in place into Bass’ allegations, and is researching locally and statewide into the use of cameras in classrooms.
Parent Amy Oster, whose 7-year-old autistic son was verbally abused by a teacher in Union County Public Schools in 2012, captured the event on an audio device she had sent to school with him. As a result, the teacher did resign, but Oster began home-schooling her son after the incident.
“A lot of the kids in these self-contained classrooms, they are either non-verbal or they have very limited expressive communication ability,” parent Amy Oster said. “So they can’t really tell you what’s going on in the classroom.”
Last week, the Texas House and Senate approved legislation to mandate cameras in public special needs classrooms, reports David Sentendrey of Fox 46, Charlotte. The measure is now awaiting the governor’s signature.