Shreveport-Bossier, LA (KTBS) – A “cameras in classrooms” bill was introduced in Arkansas last month. House Bill 1019 would provide protection for students and teachers in self-contained classrooms where a majority of students are non-verbal.
Now some parents of special needs students in Shreveport-Bossier are asking, “Why not in Louisiana?”
One mother, who did not want us to identify her, is asking for just that after things took a turn when she picked up her 8-year-old son from a field trip. He had scratches on his body and what she says appeared to be a red hand-print across his face.
“Their stories were not adding up either. … They basically said he took his face down on the ground and moved forward and that caused the redness on his face. But I have a feeling there would have been scratches or other marks on his face other than the red marks that look like a hand print across his face,” she said.
Bossier Schools says at no point was the child ever struck by an employee. Two paraprofessionals were able to restrain him and immediately called his mother to pick him up for fear he would further harm himself or others.
Her son has autism and is considerably “non-verbal.” He can say basic commands but can’t hold full conversations or verbalize what’s happened to him, especially hours after the fact. If there was abuse, he doesn’t have the communication skills to self-report it.
“He can’t tell us, ‘This made me upset’ or ‘This bothered me,’ or ‘I’m in pain and I feel sick.’ These things happen but we don’t know what lead up to it,” the mother said.
Her son is in behavioral and occupational therapy, along with speech. When something happens during school hours, she’s left to only believe what the teacher tells her. Since her son’s behavioral therapist isn’t allowed in the school to help correct an issue, this mother is one of many who are petitioning for cameras in special education classrooms.
“They are not meeting us in the middle. I can only do so much outside of school with my son. In school, I can’t correct that if I can’t be in the classroom and his therapist can’t help either,” she said.
Mimi Rankin Webb is on the Louisiana Council’s Advisory Network, a program pushing for positive change in systems serving people with disabilities.
Webb, along with other LaCAN leaders across the state, plan to visit with lawmakers to share the information on the disabilities council agenda to get support, in hopes of introducing legislation.
She says cameras in the classroom would benefit students and teachers. Since many children in special education classrooms have a voice, but express it differently.
“Some of them use cards to communicate, some use iPad apps, some are just non-verbal and can’t tell you at all, some of them even lose their words. When they lose their words, the behavior is basically exhibiting what is wrong,” said Webb.
The purpose is to correct an issue as it arises and understand why a child with special needs is communicating the way they are.
By Alison Lorraine