Do you welcome Big Brother in the schools? CISD to begin video filming inside special education classes

Do you welcome Big Brother in the schools? CISD to begin video filming inside special education classes

Image: The administrators of the Conroe Independent School District (CISD) will watch on video cameras. Relax. You know they’re on your side.

Conroe, August 12 – While Conroe Independent School District (CISD) certainly didn’t disclose the new policy in any public announcement or press release, a few select parents of special education children received an email from a legal assistant inside the school district on Friday, August 9, 2019, that CISD will now videotape special education classes. The email, which The Golden Hammer, Montgomery County’s leading daily newspaper, obtained from a confidential source inside CISD, appears directly below.

Email from CISD legal assistant Terry Sauter announcing to some parents of special education children that the school district is installing video and audio recording equipment in certain special education classrooms.

The announcement from CISD’s Legal Office, which largely seems to set policy for most of the school district, informs parents of certain special education students that CISD is installing video and audio recording equipment in certain special education classrooms. The equipment will be operational at the start of the 2019-20 school year. Parents may not object to the recording.

Texas Education Code Section 29.022 came into law in 2015. The 84th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 507 by Senator Eddie Lucio, democrat of Brownsville, and sponsored in the House by Representative Senfronia Thompson, democrat of Houston, a bill that requires school districts to equip self-contained classrooms serving students in special education programs with video surveillance cameras. After the two chambers passed different versions of the bill, a conference committee ironed out the differences. Eventually, the Senate adopted the legislation by a 21 to 10 vote and the House by a 140 to 3 vote. Governor Greg Abbott signed the bill into law on June 19, 2015. State Representative Cecil Bell, Republican of Magnolia, was one of the three in the House who voted against the legislation. Senator Brandon Creighton, Republican of Conroe, and Senator Robert Nichols of Tyler, were among the ten in the Senate who voted against the legislation.

The following groups of people may have access to certain video footage in certain situations:

  • A school district employee or a parent or guardian of a student who is involved in an incident documented by the recording for which a complaint has been reported to the district, on request of the employee, parent, or guardian, respectively;
  • Appropriate Department of Family and Protective Services personnel as part of an investigation of child abuse or neglect in a school setting under Section 261.406 of the Texas Family Code;
  • A peace officer, a school nurse, a district administrator trained in de-escalation and restraint techniques as provided by commissioner rule, or a human resources staff member designated by the board of trustees of the school district or the governing body of the open-enrollment charter school in response to a complaint or an investigation of district or school personnel or a complaint of abuse committed by a student; or
  • Appropriate agency or State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) personnel or agents as part of an investigation.

Parents, of course, are not on the list. Parents may not opt out.

The Golden Hammer has confirmed with three sources inside CISD that the purpose of the video footage, which has occurred at the request of two different CISD employees, is to videotape students.

CISD answers to question about video recording in classrooms.
CISD answers to question about video recording in classrooms.

If the purpose of a camera is to surveil the government (i.e., teachers, County Commissioners, legislators), we should all be okay with a camera. If the purpose of the camera is to surveil citizens, then those cameras would appear to be surveillance and privacy violations which contravene the Fourth Amendment as applied to the states through the Fourteenth Amendment as well as the Texas Constitution’s rights to Due Process and to privacy. If we’re pointing the camera at the teacher, we should be okay with those cameras. Only parents and students should have access to the video footage.

If the purpose of the cameras is for the government to record and surveil the citizens or for the “protection” of the government, certainly it’s not appropriate.

 

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