Proposed Rules Relating to Video Surveillance of Certain Special Education Settings
May 19, 2016
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony concerning Texas Education Agency (TEA) proposed rules relating to video surveillance of certain special education settings (19 TAC 103 Subchapter DD). These comments are in addition to written comments submitted on May 8, 2016, in association with The Arc of Texas, Coalition of Texans with Disabilities, and Disability Rights Texas.
The Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities (TCDD) is established by federal law and is governed by 27 board members, appointed by the Governor, 60% of whom are individuals with developmental disabilities or family members of individuals with disabilities. TCDD’s purpose in law is to encourage policy change so that people with disabilities have opportunities to be fully included in their communities and exercise control over their own lives.
TCDD recommends that:
- TEA should integrate into proposed rules the existing laws and rules governing reporting and investigating abuse and neglect to provide parents and the public with a comprehensive description of the processes that come into play when an allegation of abuse or neglect is made involving a student in a school district or charter school. The recommended language would include the school’s responsibilities with respect to (1) reporting to the Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS) and cooperating with its investigation, and (2) taking action following an allegation of abuse or neglect, including administratively suspending the staff member(s) in question pending corroboration or dismissal of the allegation by DFPS. For purposes of parent and public information, TEA should also indicate actions it requires school districts and charter schools to take when an allegation is confirmed. For example, upon confirmation of abuse or neglect by anyone holding a State Board for Educator Certification (SBEC) certification, then the district/charter must immediately notify SBEC.
- TEA should identify gaps in existing laws and rules governing the investigation and resolution of abuse and neglect allegations involving school districts and charter schools and take action in a timely way to secure legislative and/or regulatory remedy. For example, current laws and rules may not address what should happen if the alleged perpetrator is a volunteer, contractor, or other person not subject to administrative suspension. In this case, TEA must put in place a regulatory provision, or seek statutory authority to do so, that requires the school district or charter school to temporarily bar that person from the school district or charter school premises and functions pending investigation and resolution of the allegation. If the allegation is confirmed, the bar should become permanent.
- TEA, either independently or in collaboration with DFPS, should create and maintain a central registry of both pending alleged perpetrators, that whose names are maintained temporarily until resolution, and confirmed perpetrators, whose names are maintained permanently. TEA should require that all schools in Texas must access the registry to clear potential employees before they are allowed to come in contact with students.
The restatement of or reference to existing requirements in law and rule would not require rule reproposal. If appropriate safeguards do not already exist in laws or rules, it is vital that TEA put in regulatory framework in place so that when an allegation of abuse or neglect is made, the student—and all Texas school students–are fully protected from further contact with the alleged or confirmed perpetrator. This is consistent with the purpose and intent of video surveillance in certain special education settings.
Thank you for consideration of these recommendations.
Linda Logan, MPAff
Public Policy Specialist