Why Focus on Special Ed? Read On

In Texas (from Disability Scoop):

In what’s believed to be a first, a new law in Texas will require schools to install cameras upon request in classrooms serving students with disabilities.

The law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this month mandates that school districts and open-enrollment charter schools in the state employ video cameras if they are requested by a parent, trustee or staff member.

Under the measure, such requests can only be made for self-contained classrooms and other environments where the majority of students are receiving special education services.

“We heard testimony from students with special needs and parents whose lives have been forever changed by mistreatment in the classroom,” state Sen. Eddie Lucio, Jr., who authored the legislation, told Disability Scoop. “It is my intention that the presence of cameras in these students’ classrooms will provide evidence in cases of abuse, and will also protect teachers who face wrongful accusations.”

From Georgia from the Atlanta Journal Constitution:

Georgia illegally segregates thousands of students with behavioral disorders in schools that often are dirty, in poor repair and, in some cases, once served as blacks-only facilities before court-ordered integration, the U.S. Department of Justice charged Wednesday.

In a strongly worded letter to Gov. Nathan Deal and Attorney General Sam Olens, the DOJ said the state is “unnecessarily segregating students with disabilities from their peers.” Further, the letter said, those students receive inferior instruction and have few if any opportunities to participate in extracurricular activities.

The so-called GNETS schools date to 1970 and once were officially known as “psycho-ed” institutions. About 5,000 students attend the schools, often after their home schools have declared their behavioral or mental health issues to be disruptive for other children.

At a school in Cordele, students with behavioral disorders must use segregated restrooms. They have separate lunch periods. They have to enter through a special door and, unlike their peers without disabilities, pass through a metal detector.

In Rome, students in the GNETS program aren’t allowed to engage with other students – or even leave the basement.

“School,” one student said, “is like prison where I am in the weird class.”

On a much more hopeful note, from Ollibean on the 25 years of ADA and one young woman's ask so she could attend a favorite band's concert.


Anonymous said…
As the parent of a SPED kid who I suspect (from the kid's behavior) was probably not treated well (at least verbally) one year (in a private school, not SPS), I get the the impetus for cameras. But what about the privacy rights of all the kids in the class. At my kids' schools these days, every child who is in a video or whose face may be caught while filming is entitled to consent (or not) to being filmed. On what grounds do all these kids lose their privacy rights?


mirmac1 said…
I will have to tell the DOJ about SPS' schemes for Old Van Asselt....
Anonymous said…
There is no expectations of privacy for public servants when in the performance of their duties.

Video Monitoring of Employees

Generally, videotaping isn’t highly offensive if it’s limited to job performance and related workplace activities. Employers may videotape to prevent theft or other bad behavior in the workplace. Videotaping increases safety to all employees, promotes good behavior or preserves crime evidence.

However, your employer may have violated your right to privacy if they videotaped you in areas considered private and personal without a necessary business reason. Such areas include bathrooms, locker rooms or break rooms.

Balance Interests in the Workplace

Employers must let you know why and where they use video and notify all employees in writing that video surveillance is conducted. They also need to ask you to sign a document saying you know you may be monitored. However, this doesn’t stop them from doing it without your knowledge. Additionally, employers must clearly state the areas that are off limits from videotaping and explain they’re for personal use and don’t have any job related function.

I don't be;live this covers the students, but as long as there isn't sound being recorded it's legal. Which might make the whole thing useless, because much of the abuse is verbal.

mirmac1 said…
Video of students are considered part of their educational records and therefore require FERPA releases. They can be videotaped (bus cameras) but tapes won't be released without obscuring their identity.

If tapes capture any staff doing something that ultimately results in corrective action, then those tapes are fair game once that happens.
Anonymous said…
Privacy doesn't mean there's no record of student or staff behavior. Schools can and should collect all sorts of data. Video recordings are the best form of data collection, and a great swath of daylight. Look at most self-contained sped rooms. The windows and doors are often/ usually blocked. Nobody can see what's going on. Why? To protect privacy? Hardly. To shun even the most minimal bit of staff accountability. See no evil, hear no evil. It's all good, right? Absolutely not. A ban on blocked windows and doors should be a mandate if it isn't already. That would be a good start.

Sped reader
Anonymous said…
As a teacher in a self contained classroom, I understand the vulnerability of my students and have sometimes wished I had a video of when a student broke my hand, ripped my hair out by the roots, kicked and hit me hard enough to get ugly black bruises, and scratched and bit me to the point of drawing blood. But I don't want cameras in there for both privacy reasons for myself, the other adults, and the students. If you think that this would only be used for safety measures, you would be wrong. With the witch hunt of teachers these days, that could be used against us in so many ways. I use many different motivational and disciplinary methods to teach and reach my students that might be interpreted negatively by someone who has no idea what they are seeing. I work with multiple adults all day long, and there are other adults in and out of my room throughout my day. We don't work in isolation. I have an open door policy but I keep my doors and windows closed for safety reasons. I have students that run off and students that will chuck heavy items out the window onto unsuspecting folks below. My primary concern, as is the case of ALL the self contained special education teachers I know, is the safety and well being of my students. We wouldn't do this job, or put up with this abuse, if we didn't love what we do.

Self-contained Teacher .
Anonymous said…
Self contained teacher, another rant about how dangerous students with disabilities are. Let's push the stereotypes, right? Thinking about how people will understand or misunderstand what they see is something you stated that you worry about, in terms of how you reach your students. What about how people will understand or misunderstand your words? You're just playing to crowd. You must now know that.

mirmac1 said…
Self-contained Teacher,

Thanks for your thoughtful comment. I believe video would be good for a number of reasons, including in the case of injury. It would build a case for providing additional support, where needed.
Anonymous said…
Wow, self-contained teacher, safety of students is your number one priority? What about teaching them? We have higher aspirations for our kids beyond warehousing them in a safe place all day. Get real. If you can't explain what you're doing, or if "looks negative", guess what? It IS negative. The bright shine of daylight is something you definitely need!! Go look at UW for a model of how that works. Video modeling, and review is a valuable tool. All windows are closed... because any student might "chuck heavy items out the window onto unsuspecting folks below". But that doesn't mean nobody should see in. Most people like you paper over their windows so that nobody sees in, so there's no accountability. It isn't a witch hunt, it's safety. Safer that people know what's happening. Safer for students who literally have no voice, no way to communicate abuse. Safer for teachers who would be accused of something they didn't do.

Sped Reader
mirmac1 said…
Sped Reader, I agree that the UW has a system that offers up total transparency. I would sit and watch for hours via the one-way mirror and, in our case, see what methods worked for my child.

As for allowing people to look in - when SPS requires its building administrators to stop bullying and abuse - I can see a real need to protect those who've been stigmatized by SPS' rampant exclusion of students with disabilities.
Anonymous said…
Self Contained Teacher,

Your assertion "We wouldn't do this job, or put up with this abuse, if we didn't love what we do" actually disturbs me. The fact that you see kids who are dysregulated as "abusing you" shows a lack of insight. You are personalizing disability-related behavior way too much for a professional educator, are you not? Isn't behavior communication? When children become dysregulated, it is a sign of many possible things e.g. they are overstimulated, or an adult unwittingly placed demands on the child when they weren't able to handle demands, or they became escalated because of something that happened that you didn't see, or the environment is chaotic, or they are not learning anything because you are so focused on behaviors that you can't see that if you would address the learning needs, many of the behaviors would lessen, or any myriad of other reasons. I hope you will seek assistance from a program specialist because your current frame of mind is very concerning.

I am fine with the use of video cameras after what has happened to my child in sped classrooms and on the bus (by adults).

Camera Approver
Anonymous said…
The other side of the coin is fraudulent use of workmans comp. One sped teacher I know claimed literally years of workmans comp and disability from supposed harm by students, ranging from emotional travail, to arm stress, to concussion. When it comes to on the job injuries, knowledgeable staff knows how to avoid it. And, the district provides excellent training for it. CPI. It's mandatory btw. If you're experiencing this many injuries, you need to do something differently. Get trained. That isn't how it's supposed to be. It's not beneficial to you, and ultimately not your students either. You aren't some sort of hero when you are injured by a student, you actually have let your challenging classroom get out of control.

Cameras Good
Anonymous said…
I agree - CPI training has a lot to offer, including a section on managing our own baggage around "abuse" and not projecting it onto our students. They are children with disabilites, not adult abusers. Big difference.

CPI also teaches you how to break loose from an attempted bite or hair-pull without hurting the student or yourself. Good stuff. Too bad so many people only pay attention during the "How to do the holds" part.

Anonymous said…
Wow. I have heard people say before on this blog that they wish more teachers would post. Or is it that only perfect teachers who never use wording that some find inappropriate, never sound frustrated, and have no students who act out, even in a self-contained behavior classroom? Assuming that teachers paper their windows to hide wrongdoing, hate their students and only want to warehouse them, not teach them, and have "baggage" that requires seeking help from a 'program specialist'? And CPI may be mandatory, but I know teachers who had to start the school year without it and had to wait until Spring to get it.

Personally, I would like for more special ed teachers to post, even the ones who are human.

Anonymous said…
Spedmama. You seem a little confused. There are many, many, maybe most, staff - who have never taken the mandatory CPI. No. This isn't about people signing up late. It wasn't available at the beginning of the year, even if people wanted it. Likely this is because the district only offers it on weekends. Imagine, IAs, who are hourly, making close to minimum wage (the new one), being required to show up on weekends, outside of contract hours. Imagine your kids teacher giving up at least 2 weekends for this class. If the district is really serious about this, it would fund subs for all staff needing this and offer it during regular hours. Who said anything about teachers "hating" students? Who said anything about requesting "help from program specialists"? CPI isn't taught by "program specialists", or by anyone in sped at all. It's taught by security - a much more professional outfit than the revolving door of sped "program specialists". And, they know what they're talking about because de-escalation is their actual job. The class is about de-escalation. Crisis PREVENTION intervention. It sounds to me that this post is about that, crisis.

Sure, anybody can post. Great if teachers do. But, this reaction isn't about poor word choice. If you make negative comments about students (who can't defend themselves), and claim that your teaching methodology looks negative because observers are just "naive"...
how do you expect parents and the public at large to react? Guess what? Parents aren't perfect either. And those type of comments will draw negative reactions, guaranteed.

Anonymous said…
Thank you for your concern about my cognitive functioning, but the teachers I was talking about could not take CPI due to it not being offered or not being able to get subs. I didn't say anything about them not signing up for it. I agree with you that it should be offered during the day and subs should be available. Better yet, it should be offered during the summer, like during the upcoming sped trainings.

You are right, no one said anything about teachers "hating" students, but accusations of teachers projecting their baggage onto children, denying them an education ("Wow, self-contained teacher, safety of students is your number one priority? What about teaching them? We have higher aspirations for our kids beyond warehousing them in a safe place all day." followed by "Most people like you paper over their windows so that nobody sees in, so there's no accountability. It isn't a witch hunt, it's safety. Safer that people know what's happening. Safer for students who literally have no voice, no way to communicate abuse. Safer for teachers who would be accused of something they didn't do." So is safety important, or is it not? I think the environment needs to be safe for teaching academics to happen.

These sort of negative intentional acts towards children sure don't sound like love (or even like/respect), and definitely do not sound like anything that any of my child's teachers have done.

I counted over 20 special ed positions that are still open at SPS. Hopefully they aren't filled by the type of people that some of you seem to assume most special ed teachers are.

De-escalation is an important skill to use in all dealings with others if things are to be positive and productive, not just teacher to student.


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