The Senate Education Committee on Thursday passed SB 261, which would modify and strengthen a 2019 law that requires cameras in special education classrooms.
The bill now clarifies the procedures that schools must follow when dealing with the cameras. Some of the new procedures include designating a specific person, such as a building or county administrator, to review the videos. Another would require that any and all requests to view the videos must be permitted.
The 2019 law was originally put in place following alleged incidents of physical abuse and mistreatment of students with special needs in some West Virginia special education classrooms.
However, some parents have come forward saying the language of the law needs “more teeth.” Senators heard testimony in committee from Kanawha County parents Craig and Beth Bowden who said their son was abused in September.
“I think it’s important for you to know that the abuse from this day, this one day that we got to view, included slaps across the face, slamming heads on desks, throwing children to the floor by the hair of their heads, forcing a child to eat lunch in the bathroom floor, and a countless number of verbal abuse,” said Beth Bowden to senators. “Without [the 2019] law, none of this abuse would have been caught. However, what we now know is that these cameras are not stopping the abuse.”
Upon hearing from the Bowdens, senators adopted two amendments to the bill – one that creates some accountability to ensure videos are being reviewed at least every 90 days, and another that would no longer require schools to delete footage after 90 days, but rather to keep all videos for at least a year.
SB 261 passed unanimously in committee and now heads to the full Senate for consideration.