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Bill requiring cameras in self-contained special education classrooms introduced a third time

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-03 18:28:34-05

BALTIMORE — Delegate Michele Guyton has put work into perfecting her bill. For the last two years, legislation requiring cameras in self-contained special education classrooms has failed. This year, she believes she has the support needed for it to succeed.

“So, new language ensuring that concerns about access to video and confidentiality have been addressed. There’s new language that the video will never be monitored without cause and will not be used for teacher evaluation,” said Guyton (D-Baltimore County) during a committee hearing on Thursday.

House Bill 226 defines self-contained special education classrooms as classrooms in public schools in which regularly attending students have a disability and are provided special education instruction.

Parents testified this action is necessary. Their students, who are nonverbal, came home from school with unexplained injuries. And they believe cameras would've helped them identify what or who caused them harm.

“My son came home with a bruise in the center of his back the size of a fist, deep purple,” said Dustin Bane.

“She was wheeled off the bus one day with a broken leg. The school doesn’t know what happened,” Susan Reinhart testified about her daughter.

“My little one was dragged through the hallways of their elementary school in some non-sanctioned procedure to a quiet room or separate classroom. This was done over 40 times,” Tracy Masur said tearfully.

RELATED: Parents seeking answers after 7-year-old autistic son seriously injured at school

“Please delegates, we need you to step into the gap right now to require school systems to install cameras in self-contained special education classrooms to stop abuse and harm for nonverbal vulnerable students and to protect our teachers from exiting classrooms unnecessarily,” said Lori Scott, an advocate and parent of a nonverbal child.

Last year, a coalition of more than 30 organizations advocating for students with disabilities signed a letter raising questions about the implementation of the cameras and their value.

READ MORE: Disability community at odds on bill requiring cameras in special education classrooms

This year, several of those groups, including The Arc Maryland, are asking for a favorable report on the bill.

“[Cameras provide] a tool for thorough and expeditious investigations that can remove teachers who are bad actors but also expeditiously exonerate those who have been accused of wrongdoing and return them to the classroom,” said Ande Kolp, executive director for The Arc Maryland.

There was no verbal testimony in opposition to the bill, however, the Maryland State Education Association is not taking a stance on this legislation.

RELATED: MD lawmakers considering cameras in special ed classrooms; several states have similar laws

If it passes, cameras would be required in at least half of self-contained special education classrooms by this fall.

Five states have already enacted similar legislation. Click here to read more about their laws and how they compare to proposed legislation in Maryland.