Will Special Ed Cameras Prevent Abuse of Students With Disabilities?

School should be a secure, safe, healthy environment for learning, but for at least one group of students, it often isn’t. Students with disabilities face physical and verbal abuse not just from classmates, but also from the teachers and administrators who are supposed to be caring for them. Such abuse often goes unnoticed and undiscussed, with parents often utterly unaware until it reaches a crisis point, and media coverage of abusive situations is often minimal. In Texas, that situation may be about to change, as schools are going to be required to place cameras in all special education classroom to monitor conditions, creating more accountability for schools as well as a clear record in the event of abuse accusations.

In many ways, the move mirrors that of the push for police body cameras across the United States. By requiring that classrooms (or police) automatically record everything that happens and routing the video to a neutral holding location, authorities can ensure that testimony and footage can’t be destroyed or altered, when such systems are kept secure. In the classroom context, having video can allow administrators and social workers to check in on special education classrooms, and it serves as a reminder to those working in the classroom that they are being watched. For parents, it can add a layer of assurance — and if a child reports abuse or starts developing behavioral problems that may be the result of abuse in the classroom, parents can approach the school and request an investigation.

The issue of abuse in schools is a serious and ongoing one. Earlier this month, the ACLU announced that it was suing in a Kentucky case regarding two disabled students who were handcuffed as a punishment. One student’s handcuffs were placed on his biceps, forcing him into an extremely uncomfortable position for 15 minutes — and putting him in extreme distress. Last year, a teacher in California was accused of caging a 7-year-old student. A Missouri teacher kicked a student while calling him an “idiot.” In Florida, a teacher who fed an autistic student crayons laced with hot sauce was, amazingly, rehired after the incident. A student in Pennsylvania was shamed with an “I abuse animals” sign after hitting a goat at a petting zoo during a class trip. Such cases repeat themselves across the nation, and are disturbingly common in communities large and small. The ACLU reports that corporal punishment of disabled students is common in school, and at least one student has died as a result of school discipline.

It’s common for children with disabilities to be isolated in special education classrooms rather than being allowed to mainstream with the rest of the population. In some cases, they’re even further secluded, being left on their own with an aide and no contact with other students and school personnel. This makes it even harder to identify abuse, as disabled students may not have a network of nondisabled counterparts to report that something strange is going on. Children may be put in restraints or sent to isolation when they “act out” by teachers and aides who don’t explore why their students are having trouble with something; for example, an autistic student may be sensitive to a noise in the classroom, or a student with a learning disability may be frustrated with some math problems.

Abuse often goes unnoticed. Unless an adult at a school reports abuse to administrators or child welfare officials, parents and education agencies may be unaware that there’s a problem in the classroom. Students may not be able to articulate what’s happening in class, or may not be believed by their parents, whether they’re reporting their own abuse or making comments about what is happening to other children. Sometimes the only indicator is behavior like refusing to get on the school bus, becoming more withdrawn, screaming and crying, or engaging in other behaviors written off as “acting out” without an investigation into their causes. Unless sharp-eyed parents, counselors or care providers ask why their children appear to be so distressed, they may assume that their children are being treated with respect in school.

The new law in Texas is designed to address this problem. Parents and advocates welcome the move, as do law enforcement agencies, who note that it will be much easier to investigate and prosecute abuse cases with video evidence. However, there is a catch: Parents need to specifically request cameras in their classrooms. Many parents are highly engaged with their disabled children and ferociously advocate for them at school, but it’s important for Texas school districts to notify parents about the fact that the cameras aren’t being installed automatically — and for the state to consider making them mandatory in all special education classrooms.

If the policy results in changes for students with disabilities, it could be evidence that the same system should be adopted nationwide. The Department of Education could step in to urge individual states to install special education cameras, much as the Department of Justice has spoken out on body cameras. The move could make a huge difference to the next generation of disabled students, making it much more difficult for abuse to pass by unnoticed in American classrooms.

Photo credit: woodleywonderworks

69 comments

Steve D.
Past Member 2 years ago

Waooow!!! Magnificent blogs, this is what I wanted to search. Thanks buddy

itsmyresearch

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Steve D.
Past Member 2 years ago

The problem is that you provide may be worth our time and also effort.

itsmyresearch.com

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus C2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Quanta Kiran
Quanta Kiran3 years ago

noted

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Ricky T.
Ricky T3 years ago

We'll wait and see the results. But, fact we have to have deterrents in place shows the mentality of those who wish to abuse the vulnerable, which is sad...nonetheless, must be done.

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Adrienne L.
Adrienne L3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Diane Harms
Diane Harms3 years ago

Its a great place to begin but I believe cameras should be in all clsssroms period and have a petition posted on the petitionsite for just the cause.

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Adrienne L.
Adrienne L3 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Amy C.
Amy C3 years ago

should be implemented everywhere

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Roro l.
Roro l3 years ago

thank you

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