Monday, April 1, 2013

Cameras in Special Education Classrooms

This past Thursday, Ellie came home with remnants of navy blue paint smeared across her face and strategically placed in between her fingers and up her forearms so that it was sure to remain through Easter Sunday.

As I took off her shoes, I noticed that she had no socks on.  Hmmm, had I forgotten to put socks on her?  It has been known to happen.  I removed her shoes and there, on the bottom of her right foot were two bold, blue blotches of paint.

I laughed.  That's my Ellie.  Taking off her shoes whenever possible.  We used to joke that we needed to staple the shoes onto her for we could never keep them on! Frequently, in the car, I would hear the WHOOOSH of the velcro and then a THUNK as she tossed a shoe into the trunk.  So it stands to reason that my little Chunky Chicken would take off her shoes at school.

The thing is, I was relieved to see the paint.  It meant that her shoes were not duct taped onto her.

Yes, I said duct taped.

Two months ago, I read about the little girl with Down syndrome who couldn't even walk down the steps of her bus because her feet and ankles were duct taped to the point of pain and impaired movement.  I was enraged.  I was mortified.  I also thought, this must be an isolated incident because who would do that to a child?

Until it happened to a friend of mind.  Only her daughter had her hands taped together (along with repeated verbal abuse and other physical abuse).  This teacher also abused an 8 year-old boy in the classroom as well.  He stated that "she [teacher] was a bully"

I am going to be honest, here.  I do not understand.  I truly do not.  Ellie has a wonderful teacher and a fabulous aide who clearly love working with kids.  They love Ellie and they love what they do.  My Aunt works with older teens in special education.  She obtained her degree when my cousin was out of school.  Ellie's babysitter, my "daughter" (people, I am not old enough to be her real mother!) is diligently studying to be a spec ed teacher.  She has passion.  She is excited.  She is going to be awesome.

All of these people have passion.  They want to work in special education.  No one goes into special education for the money.  So, why am I reading more and more new stories about children in special education classrooms being verbally and physically abused?

The scary part of all of this is: The parents did not know.  My friend, she was contacted by child protective services.  Yes, contacted by.  She did not contact them.  She did not know.  My Ellie is nonverbal.  It isn't as though she can tell me.  I wouldn't know either.

These are just TWO reports since February.  Go on google.  I dare you to and be prepared to be mortified.  There are so many more cases.  So many that it is mind boggling.

Cameras in Special Education Classrooms:

I have been reading a lot about the placement of cameras in special education classrooms.  The cameras go both ways.  They are for the protection of BOTH kids and teachers.  You have the nonverbal child who is being verbally or physically abused and cannot tell anyone.  Or you have the child who self-inflicts harm and comes home covered with bruises and blames the teacher/aide.  In the first instance, the camera would help build the child's case and in the second, the teacher's/aide's case.

I also know there are a lot of kinks that need to be worked out such as privacy rights of the child/children, the cost of installing and maintaining the cameras, who monitors the video feed, but I believe cameras could be a great deterrent and it bears more consideration.  In a recent Texas Observer article about the placement of cameras in schools, a police Sergeant stated that the cameras in his police vehicle made him a better officer.  He contends that it might do the same for teachers having cameras installed in the classrooms.

Enough Training & Overcrowding:

Moreover, I also believe that we need to fight for smaller class-sizes and more training for teachers in dealing with emotional meltdowns.  Many children with developmental disabilities and autism tend to have behavioral issues.  I for one, know that it can take TWO people to move my child to "circle time", sit down for lunch, or have her blood drawn (okay three people for that) or essentially have her do something she doesn't want to do.  She weighs less than 30 lbs.  That would take the teacher and the aide right there.  Add that to the other 11 kids her in class. . . . well, you see where I am going.  You can check out this article: Do Special Education Teachers Get Enough of the RIGHT Training?

I am saddened that this is happening in schools across the nation.  A place where we trust our children to spend the majority of their day.  A place where we expect them to be protected.

Cameras in Classrooms Petition

Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms Facebook Page

Stories about the pros & cons for Cameras in Special Education Classrooms:



  1. Very powerful article, "mom"!! I already signed the petition. Miss you guys

  2. Great post! I am terrified about this--Owen is totally non-verbal. I know I can't be everywhere, but knowing that there are cameras where he is would definitely give me peace of mind. On top of that, I was a high school teacher before I became a mom and I would have invited cameras into my classroom so that it could have taped a student throwing scissors at me and barely missing my face--all because I wouldn't accept his late (2 weeks late!) homework. It became a he said/she said situation and although he was suspended for 3 days, he should have been expelled and would have been if cameras had been there! Thanks for the petition link--will hop over and sign it!

    1. Stephanie, scissors?!?!?!? Wow! I am so happy that your wrote this comment. I love being able to hear both sides--the parent side and the teacher side. Scissors = weapon and you could have been seriously injured. All for homework. Yikes! I also hear you with Owen. Same for my Ellie.

    2. Yes, scissors--full size, adult metal (Sharp!) scissors. While that was the worst thing ever thrown at me, it wasn't the only thing (pencils, shoes, paper airplanes, a textbook, and a banana are the few I remember right now). I think cameras would be helpful in many situations and not just in the special education classrooms either. How many teachers have been accused of sexual assault or bullying by students and it's hard to prove. Those cameras would keep everyone in line and keep everyone safe.

  3. Replies
    1. No problem. I am still in shock over it all. Hugs and loves.

  4. I admit my first response to this idea was concern about my kid ending up on some cruel youtube video but I don't think the logistical/privacy hurdles would be that difficult to overcome and, really?, better youtube than duct tape or fractures. Am signing.

    Although I watched some of the videos in the side bar on some of the links and don't really want to send her to school ever again anyway.

    Also, slightly related: I was talking to my aunt-in-law on Easter - her daughter is w/Teach for America in rural AR and, despite being a great kid, she's fresh out of school with a BA in something that wasn't teaching, has zero experience, and yet is the primary in a self-contained SpEd room. THE PRIMARY. In addition to cameras, I think we need to chuck the whole damn system and start over.

    1. You are right--chuck the whole system and start over! Like everyone says: the pay sucks, they are under appreciated, there is classroom crowding, and many are not properly trained to work with kiddos with special needs.

  5. Wonderful post, Anna! Signing right now-- have also been watching this movement and praying that it gains force and strength for our little ones who aren't able to always communicate clearly and effectively. Sometimes Joey has green paint in his hair, but like you, I know how wonderful his teachers are and I don't ever think twice about it. As he moves on and on into the world of the public school (as opposed to our little private pre-school he goes to)-- my heart is filled with fear. Support you 100%!!!!

  6. I have been mortified by all the reports of abuse against children and adults with disabilities!!! I think that the camera's need to be in ALL classrooms, not just special need's rooms. There are so many kids in a class these days (30-35 in our area) and there is just NO way that teachers are able to keep tabs on that many children. The world is a crazy place these days.......sometimes I just want to shelter my girls and never let them go!!!

    1. I hear you. . . for the past 10 years, at least, classroom sizes have increased. More and more children are being crammed into classrooms with one teacher. It is not humanly possible to monitor all of those children. I can imagine how overwhelming it would be. . . still, I get very scared when I hear about all of the abuse. I want to shelter my little girl!

  7. I think video may backfire on a lot of parents. Teacher abusing kids is a terrible thing, but 99.9% of the abuse that goes on in today's classrooms is directed at the teacher, not from. Teachers are not protected from violent students at all. I would welcome cameras in the classroom, but I can tell you it would result in the arrest of almost every student in the classroom within 2 weeks. Why would a teacher even go into working with violent emotionally disturbed students today? No extra pay, but plenty of extra work, certifications, scrutiny etc.. I have always invited parents to come and stop by anytime, and especially encourage them to observe from an area where their child won't know they are there. Guess how many I have had take me up on that in 15 years? Zero. 50% of teachers quit in the first 5 years, for special ed its much worse. Teachers of emotionally disturbed fare worst of all. Who do you want working with your kids? Highly trained and compensated professionals or exhausted underpaid teachers? Most of America isn't paying even close to a fair rate for the work and credentials needed for teachers.

    1. Thank you, Rhonda for your insight. It is always good to hear from people other than the parents, to hear the other side. Many of us in my inner Ds circle have indeed observed the classroom. I have done the same with my daughter. Many of us also know if our kids have behavioral issues. We know that they are not angels all the time. Mine certainly isn't! The thing is, in the cases I linked above, they were not emotionally disturbed and even if they were, the abuse was not (and never is) deserved. Little Hannah is 6 years-old and has Down syndrome. She has an intellectual disability. Six years-old chronologically and younger developmentally. Six.

      I agree, the pay sucks and the emotional toll is high. You MUST be passionate to want to go into this field (sort of like nursing-the field I am in--where the education is grueling, the pay is horrible, and then you get peed on, pooped on, vomited on, verbally abused, and in my case, almost stabbed with needle) and I have no doubt the burnout rate is high. I also have come to realize that there is a spec ed teaching shortage so many people have been throw into these classrooms without proper training. I also agree, that teachers should be paid much more and I do think that many people believe that and yet the money is always allocated elsewhere. I know it isn't fair.

      Yet no one, child or teacher should be abused. These teachers who did abuse the children should have quit rather than letting their frustration get to a point of pulling the child's hair, hitting them in the face with a textbook, or duct taping their extremities. The teachers are adults and in theory, have the emotional maturity and cognitive ability to recognize that their actions are wrong.

  8. Good to hear this kind of information. This newly putted cameras will help to ensure our kids on their present activities in school. This is good enough to have an assurance on their kids security.

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