Texas Education Code section 29.022, Video Cameras In Special Education Classrooms
Texas Education Code section 29.022 mandates that school districts within the state of Texas conduct video and audio surveillance in certain special education classrooms and settings upon request. While the concept of surveillance cameras being used within classrooms containing children has been the topic of heated debate in recent years, Texas is one of the few states to implement a policy that allows for such practices. The statute is intended to protect students who, because of a disability, may struggle to report abuse or mistreatment from both students and school district employees. As students with disabilities have often dealt with discrimination in the American school system, Texas Education Code section 29.022 seeks to ensure that the rights of disabled students are adhered to and respected at all times.
Who can request that video and audio surveillance be implemented in a special education classroom?
Under Texas Education Code section 29.022, a parent, principal, assistant principal, staff member, or the board of trustees of a school district is permitted to request in writing that a Texas-based school district install videos and audio recording equipment into a self-contained classroom or other form of special education setting. Under Section 29.022, a parent is defined as “a parent, including a guardian or person in parental relation, whose child receives special education and related services in one or more self-contained classrooms, or an adult student who receives special education and related services in such as classroom or setting”. Alternatively, a staff member is defined as “a teacher, related service provider, paraprofessional, counselor, or educational aide assigned to work in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting”.
The extent of a particular Texas school district’s duty to install appropriate camera equipment in a self-contained classroom or special education setting is dependent upon who made the request for such equipment. If a parent or staff member makes the request for surveillance, the school district is only obligated to place and operate a camera in the classroom or educational setting in which the relevant student or staff member is assigned. Conversely, A principal or vice-principal is only authorized to request surveillance for his or her own campus, while the board of trustees may request cameras for self-contained classrooms and special educations settings at multiple campus locations. As such, Texas state school districts are only required to place cameras in specified locations if such a request was made by a principal, assistant, or member of the board of trustees.
What is the definition of a “self-contained classroom or other special education setting”?
Section 29.022 applies to self-contained classrooms and special education settings in which the students in attendance meet the following criteria:
- Are provided special education or related services.
- Are assigned to one or more special settings for at least 50% of the instructional day.
Additionally, the Texas Education Agency or TEA rules define a self-contained classroom as “a classroom on a regular campus in which a majority of the students in regular attendance are provided special education and related services, and have one of nine specific instructional arrangement codes in the Student Attendance Accounting Handbook indicating that the student receives special education services (43, 44, 45, 84, 85, 89, 94, 95, and 98)”. Moreover, the TEA rules also define “other special educational settings” to include “a classroom on a separate campus (i.e., a campus that serves only students receiving special education services) in which a majority of the students in regular attendance have one of two instructional arrangement codes indicating the students placement at the separate campus.”
What is the scope of required surveillance and how should a school district respond to a written request for surveillance?
Under section 29.022, video cameras must be capable of covering and recording all areas of an applicable self-contained classroom or other special education setting. This includes any attached rooms that may be used for behavior management techniques such as a time-out, to provide a student with the opportunity to regain their self-control, or instances in which a student is separated from other students for a limited period of time in an unlocked area. Any incidental visual recording that may include portions or sections of a school’s changing area or restroom are only permitted to the extent that such coverage is due to the confines or layout of a particular self-contained classroom or other special education setting.
School districts within the state of Texas must adjust their district policies in accordance with Section 29.022, which mandates that a school’s central office administrator must respond to the written request for camera equipment within seven school days of receipt of said request. This response must either authorize the request or provide any explanation for any denial of the request. After a request has been granted, video and audio surveillance equipment must be made operational within 45 days of the request’s approval. However, the TEA may grant an extension to this statutory timeline at their discretion.
On the contrary, the parents of incoming students must follow an alternative timeline when requesting that surveillance equipment be installed in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting. Under Section 29.022, a school district’s policy must allow for the parent of an incoming student who will be enrolled in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting to request video and audio surveillance on the later of the last day of the current school year, the 10th business day of the last day of the current school year, or the 10th school business day after the student’s special education admissions, review, and dismissal (ARD) committee decides to place the student in the eligible location. In instances in which requests are made under these circumstances, a school district’s policy must also mandate that the camera be made operational by the later of the 10th school business day of the fall semester, or the 45th school business day after the date the request is made.
With legislation such as Texas Education Code section 29.022, the hope is that the rights of disabled children within Texas school districts can be protected in a way that they haven’t been in the past. As video and audio surveillance have become commonplace in other facets of society in our digital age, the field of education has proven to be no different. While there will certainly be objections to such practices, all videos and recordings under Texas Education Code section 29.022 are considered to be confidential under Texas State law, unless such recordings contain abuse or suspected abuse, or classroom incidents in which such legislation was passed to record in the first place. As such, parents of disabled children within the state of Texas have another avenue for recourse when their children encounter issues in relation to schooling.