AUSTIN (KXAN) – Since 2016, Texas parents have had the right to request cameras be installed in certain special education classrooms. The update in the law was meant to protect students – and provide evidence – in cases where a student with a disability is unable to report abuse.
But actually getting your hands on a copy of surveillance video showing your student can be complicated. First, districts can deny a parent’s request for a surveillance camera in a classroom – if it provides an explanation. Second – even if there is video — the district can restrict your access.
Across the state, districts have adopted policies that allow parents to view the video along with school administrators, but often block parents’ from getting a copy of the video.
The school districts we spoke with largely said they restrict access because of FERPA, a federal law protecting the identity and privacy of other students who might appear on the video.
The KXAN Investigates team reached out to several school districts in Central Texas, including Manor ISD, Austin ISD, Hays CISD, Hutto ISD, Pflugerville ISD, and Del Valle ISD. We did not hear back from Austin ISD on its policy in time for publication.
Colleen Potts, an attorney for non-profit Disability Rights Texas, said there are other hurdles she’s observed with getting video from school districts in alleged cases of abuse – or unlawful restraint, in Texas.
“We’ve seen several cases where conveniently on the day an incident was happening, and a child was injured – the cameras weren’t working,” said Potts. “There are definite loopholes in the cameras in classroom law.”