Cameras to be put in special education classrooms, Madison City Schools

Published: May. 27, 2022 at 6:55 AM CDT|Updated: May. 27, 2022 at 7:13 AM CDT
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - Should special education classrooms have cameras in them? Some parents and school leaders think so, including those in the city of Madison. The school board there just passed a policy to make this happen.

For years, many parents have been urging the district to put cameras in special education classrooms. However, there was never a policy in place to allow it, until now. Although students are out for summer, Superintendent Ed Nichols said his team is always looking ahead.

“It’s beginning to happen around the nation and so we just adopted the policy so we would have it in place as we begin to put those cameras out,” Nichols said.

Many special education students are nonverbal. If an incident happens in a classroom, good or bad, these students cannot fully explain or describe what happened. Nichols said the cameras help provide a safety net for teachers and parents. The goal is to provide transparency in the classroom.

“You are in a situation where students maybe can’t express themselves,” Nichols said. “Parents are trying to figure out what happened if they have a concern about something at school, and teachers want to be able to show what’s happening...so we just felt like we would work those processes out together.”

There is no law in Alabama that requires cameras in special education classrooms. That’s why the district took time to develop a clear policy before making any changes.

“This is not anything new,” Nichols said. “It’s just that we didn’t have a policy in place to address how to handle this information so that is what we wanted to get straightened out before we start the process.”

Nichols said the first round of cameras will go to James Clemens special education classrooms, sometime this summer or early Fall. Then, Bob Jones, Discovery Middle School, and so on.

Kimberly McFadden is one parent who’s been pushing for cameras in special education classrooms. She said it’s about safety and transparency.

“I actually started pushing for this three years ago,” McFadden said. “I’m just super excited. I cried in the meeting when they voted for them.”

McFadden has six children, three of them are in Madison City Schools special education. She said the cameras are important because many special education students are nonverbal. She believes the cameras give those kids a voice.

Last year, a group of parents in Madison even started an online petition pushing for this. It gained over 1,000 signatures. Many of those parents also protested outside a couple board meetings.

McFadden believes school leaders in Madison City truly want what’s best for everybody. She said she’s thankful they came to this decision to wrap up the school year.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing like I said to give our children our voice,” McFadden said. “But I also think it’s a good thing for the staff members, for their protection and safety. At the last school meeting, I actually spoke where they actually voted on the cameras. I can’t wait to see what the next school year holds.”

You can find the complete, updated policy on the district’s website.

It reads, in part: The purpose of this policy is to require the maintenance and operation of cameras in self-contained classrooms on all campuses operated by the Board to promote and ensure the health, safety, and well-being of students and staff in self-contained classrooms. This policy does not affect or modify any other Board policies related to the use of video cameras, security cameras, or other technology.

“Board” shall mean the City of Madison Board of Education.

“Self-Contained Classroom” means a classroom, including any connected common areas or active quiet rooms, in which at least 50% of the students in regular attendance are provided special education and related services and have an LRE code of 03 or 04. This definition does not include resource rooms or related service provider rooms.

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