Several parents of special needs students voiced their displeasure with the Killeen Independent School District’s perceived lack of compliance with the new Texas law that requires special education classrooms to have video and audio recording once requested.
Killeen resident Angela Garvin is one of them.
“I am a mom of a Special Education student in a self-contained classroom who made a request on August 22, 2016, to have cameras installed. John Craft (KISD superintendent) stated in the past that the District would be proactive about the cameras. However, what I saw tonight was not proactive.” said Garvin in a letter to the Daily Herald.
Six families of special needs students have requested the cameras be placed in their child’s classroom. Two of the children are in the same class and the district has approved five cameras, officials said.
On Aug. 15, Senate Bill 507 went into effect. The law, enacted in September 2015, requires video and audio recording in special education classrooms if a parent completes a formal request form.
The policy will apply only to special education classrooms that are self-contained for more than 50 percent of the day. In the Killeen Independent School District currently, there are 127 self-contained classrooms that meet this criteria.
The law is an unfunded mandate, leaving school districts to figure out how to fund and implement the camera legislation.
School board members Susan Jones and Marvin Rainwater expressed their displeasure with the cost of the policy to the district, as the cameras purchased cost nearly $83,000. They questioned the necessity of camera and audio recording in the five classrooms that have been approved.
“The district has been waiting for clarification and direction from TEA (Texas Education Association). Clarification has been sought, so that we could develop our policy and procedures, get it approved by the Board of Trustees and implement it into practice,” new Deputy Superintendent Dr. Desmontes Stewart said.
“The school board had several questions. These were the same questions that TEA and TASB (Texas Association of School Boards) have been reviewing,” Stewart said.
Stewart said some had feared teacher performance would be judged through this policy. Stewart said that was not the purpose.
“The audio/video cameras will only be reviewed by authorized staff members when an incident has been reported. The cameras will not be continually monitored or used for teacher evaluation,” Stewart told the board.
Garvin said, “Killeen ISD did not publish the board book online (before the meeting). The meeting felt intentionally long, as if they didn’t think people would stay until the end.
“When the board finally returned from a break, Rainwater and Jones repeatedly asked the same questions as if they didn’t have any knowledge of the law. One would assume that the district would welcome transparency, considering the lack of trust throughout the district, as well as the entire State of Texas.”
The meeting concluded with the board members agreeing to table the agenda item until Oct. 11.
At that time, the district will re-examine the decision to put the cameras in the requested classrooms.
KISD’s special ed program has been under scrutiny since a TEA March 2015 investigation found the district’s delayed getting services to special needs students.
TEA found the district to be lacking a uniform system to track evaluations, inner-office conflicts and faulty data that resulted in delayed services for eligible special education students over the last seven years.
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