26 May Cameras to be placed in special education class upon request

May 26, 2016

By: Rachel Rice

Source: statesman.com

If a parent, school board member or district staff requests a camera be placed in a special education classroom in the state of Texas, the request must be honored, according to Senate Bill 507, passed in the 84th legislative session.

The Lake Travis school board heard a presentation on the bill’s specs during its May 17 board meeting, laid out by the district’s attorney, Amber King. The bill comes into effect at the start of the next school year, she said. An opinion from the attorney general’s office is still needed on the bill, and a hearing was held March 19.

“There are pretty extensive requirements throughout the bill … with regard to the technology, what it has to be, how that technology has to be maintained,” King said. “We have to maintain up to six months of tape, which from my understanding is pretty unheard of. It also has to be able to capture audio. It has to capture every area of the classroom, so it’s possible that more than one camera would be required in a particular classroom.”

The initiative is unfunded by the state, Superintendent Brad Lancaster pointed out. The district has marked down $456,500 as the approximate cost to meet requirements, which would cover the cost of 120 cameras to cover a potential 40 classrooms, two servers, storage space and editing software. But staff said the logistics, once the law is in practice, will be cumbersome to say the least.

“The video cannot be compressed for six months,” said Chris Woehl, the district director for technology. “From a technology perspective, we need to figure out what the best possible (strategy) is so we have the potential of rolling this out as needed … legally, parents who request this can’t see other children, so the video has to be edited. Who is going to do that? The technology department has to do these things based on the law of who can have access. It’s very much up in the air right now, and they’re still figuring out little pieces to this mandate.”

According to senior administrator Johnny Hill, the district has three options: Pay for the mandate from the general operating fund and issue a “reimbursement resolution” so that if a bond is passed in 2017 the district can pay itself back for the expense, utilize the 2012 bond contingency fund, or flatly use money from the general operating fund.

The board did not take action during the meeting.

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