Texas considers requiring cameras in special ed classes

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by JASON WHITELY / WFAA

WFAA

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 8:31 AM

DALLAS — For seven years, Breggett Rideau has pleaded for cameras in the classroom to protect special education students.

Her son, Terrence Rideau, can't walk, can't talk and can neither feed nor clothe himself... but he looks forward to horse therapy, which is designed to build his strength and balance.

"He had an adverse reaction to the DPT shot at four months," Rideau explained. "He was born perfectly normal. It was a vaccine that damaged his brain."

What's more tragic is his experience with special education.

Terrence has come home with broken thumbs, dislocated knees, and Rideau said her son has even been sexually assaulted by a former teacher.

"No child deserves it," she said as tears welled in her eyes. "Abuse at school? At school, man! It's supposed to be the safe place."

Advocates told News 8 there's no way to tell how prevalent abuse of special education students is in Texas. Mediation hides many cases, according to Mara LaViola, a disability rights advocate in Dallas.

But Texas is now one step closer to becoming the first state in the country to require cameras in special education classrooms.

A bill introduced by State Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) this session had already passed the Texas Senate, and the House Public Education Committee considers it on Tuesday at 2 p.m.

If eventually passed by the House and signed into law, Texas would become the first state in the country requiring cameras in special ed classrooms.

Some groups have concerns, but there is no organized opposition.

"This could possibly be a double-edged sword, but I think for the safety of the educators and the safety of the students, we would not oppose it," said Rena Honea, president of the Dallas Chapter of Alliance/AFT, one of the state's largest teachers unions representing 65,000 educators.

The Texas Council of Administrators of Special Education said it is officially neutral on cameras in the classroom. That organization did have concerns about the legislature passing the costs of the system to already-strapped school districts.

The Legislative Budget Board reported this would affect about 73,375 special education students.

"If one camera was required for every five students, a minimum of 14,675 cameras would be required to be made available for installation statewide," the LBB wrote. "The estimated minimum cost to purchase an inexpensive camera with limited-quality video or audio is $150 per camera, or $2.2 million total. If schools chose to install the cameras, there would be additional costs for installation and maintenance of the cameras."

In addition, TCASE said it is concerned that the legislature would require these cameras to be in place by this fall.

Breggett only wants accountability and to ensure school is a safe place for the most vulnerable children — including her only one.

E-mail jwhitely@wfaa.com

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