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West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice signed two bills Friday aimed at protecting special needs students after allegations of abuse at some schools last year.
One bill requires public school administrators to view video of each special education classroom for at least 15 minutes at least every 90 days. It also eliminates a requirement that video footage be deleted after a certain time period.
A 2019 state law required cameras to be installed in special needs classrooms following allegations of student abuse in Berkeley County. Investigators and parents or guardians of students involved in incidents are allowed to view available video upon request.
The other bill makes it a felony for someone in a position of trust to physically or verbally abuse a special needs student, or for failing to report abuse. That act previously was a misdemeanor.
The second bill also requires the state Department of Education to create a database of school employees under active investigation for child abuse.
The state also will be required to study the possibility of implementing a system allowing parents and guardians to view their children remotely.
A Kanawha County couple filed a lawsuit against the county school system after their son allegedly was abused at an elementary school. A criminal case against a former teacher at the school is ongoing. Criminal charges and civil lawsuits also have been filed alleging mistreatment of special needs students at a Kanawha County middle school.