Orr is working on a bill to install cameras in special education classrooms

By MADDISON BOOTH, Alabama Daily News

Legislation being drafted for the 2023 legislative session would place cameras in special education classrooms from K-12.

Earlier this month, a lawsuit was filed against Limestone County Schools and an assistant who allegedly abused a 12-year-old non-verbal autistic student, according to the media.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, said cameras in classrooms would protect students from abuse and staff from wrongful accusations. He asked legislative staff to review other states’ laws, what might work best in Alabama and the potential cost of such a requirement. One cost that might not need to be taken into account is the extra staff for monitoring. Orr said the idea is that the camera footage would be there to be retrieved if needed, but the cameras would not be monitored.

Several states, including Texas, Georgia, West Virginia, and more recently Louisiana, have laws requiring or allowing the use of cameras in special education spaces.

Independent of the Limestone County lawsuit, mother-of-six Kimberly McFadden pleaded for cameras while addressing local education officials, Governor Kay Ivey’s office, the lieutenant governor and various lawmakers across the board. the state.

Three of McFadden’s six children have autism, and she began advocating for cameras in special needs classrooms after saying her son was abused by a teacher at his school in South Carolina. McFadden said even now, five years after the incident, her son is unable to complete a full day of school due to the trauma he suffered.

“Because there were no cameras in that classroom, that teacher was never charged,” McFadden said.

When McFadden moved her family to Madison, Alabama in December 2017, she continued the work she had started in South Carolina advocating for the protection of students with special needs.

“It’s a protection for our children, but it’s also a protection for staff and teachers,” she said.

Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, said he will likely co-sponsor the bill.

“It’s probably a good preventative measure, and I’d be happy to dig deeper,” Butler told the Alabama Daily News.

In Alabama, a few school systems already have similar requirements. Madison City Schools will soon be one of them.

On May 19 of this year, the school board approved a policy requiring cameras in all classrooms in which at least half of the students receive special education services.

“There was some opposition initially, but much of it subsided when the policy was shared and staff understood the reasoning behind the cameras,” said Dr. Susan Zinkil, director of special education for children. Madison City schools. “We hope this helps parents and teachers appreciate the board and superintendent’s commitment to students and staff.”

The policy states that cameras must record both video and audio and that footage must be stored for three months, two aspects of the situation McFadden was adamant about.

She noted that with non-verbal children, parents may take longer to realize there is abuse, as they only rely on behavioral indicators.

“We’re not asking for a nanny-cam situation,” McFadden said.

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