Advocacy

TEA Commissioner Requests AG Opinion on SB 507

SB 507

The Texas Education Agency commissioner requests a legal opinion from the Texas Attorney General regarding SB 507, a bill passed in the 84th Texas Regular Legislative Session. This bill requires school districts to provide video surveillance for some special education settings.

On March 11, 2016, the Texas Education Agency Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General on the implementation of SB 507. This new law requires video surveillance of certain special education settings upon request beginning in the 2016-2017 school year. In an earlier blog post, I outlined the provisions of SB 507.

Commissioner Morath is in the process of writing the rules that will help guide districts in the implementation of the new law. He is seeking a legal opinion on several outstanding questions before he releases a draft of the rules. Most of his questions are due to some of the discrepancies between the original language in the bill and the version that became law and some of the senators’ statements made at a hearing last month regarding their intent.

Below are the four questions that Morath outlined in his letter to the AG:

  1. Can section 29.022(a) reasonably be construed to mean that a request for video surveillance only requires that video surveillance be conducted in one self-contained instructional setting?
  2. If your response to question 1 is “no,” then can the statute reasonably be construed to allow a requestor to limit his or her request for video surveillance to one or more specific instructional settings? For example, if a parent’s request reflects that the parent only wants video surveillance in his or her child’s classroom, would it be permissible for the school district or charter school to only place and operate video cameras in that specific classroom?
  3. Can the term “staff member” in section 29.022 reasonably be construed to mean only a campus employee who is assigned to a self-contained instructional setting described in the statute and certain campus employees with supervisory authority, such as a principal and assistant principal?
  4. Can section 29.022(b) reasonably be construed to allow a school district or charter school to discontinue video surveillance in a self-contained instructional setting if the circumstances surrounding the request have changed substantially (e.g., the student whose parent requested video surveillance is no longer assigned to the classroom or has left the campus or district, the teacher who requested video surveillance is no longer assigned to the classroom, the term of office of the trustee who requested video surveillance has ended, etc.)?

Morath has requested the AG expedite his response to his questions because school districts need the rules in order to comply with the new law before the start of the next school year.
Commissioner Morath’s letter to the Attorney General

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Jennifer Bergland

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  • It is important for you to know how much it costs to implement the camera and storage of 6 months worth of video. We are privileged to have inhouse installation thus the expense does NOT include installation
    1 camera (audio/video) for 1 student in 1 self-contained classroom = $294.20
    1 Video Server ~$900.00
    1 16Tbyte storage for 6 months storage = $1306.72

    We are a small district with one request for audio/video recording in 1 classroom with 1 student. Total ~ $2500

    A bid from a vendor was just under $6000 per camera with 6 months recording capabilities. In districts that do not have the capability of inhouse installation, there would be even MORE of a hardship on them per classroom.

    Please understand what you are requiring as you move forward!

  • I’m the manager within the IT department that supports and maintains all security, alarm, and electronics in the district and now find myself responsible for identifying and supporting adequate equipment and resources to meet SB507. While I believe I have found a suitable camera/mic combination and we are fortunate enough to have a large fiber attached SAN dedicated to security video, I am curious what constitutes a valid request that establishes the condition for which the request was made. Is or will there be a State established form or is it up to each district and if so, what is required? In consideration of a validated request and subsequent required notifications, from an installation perspective, does installation simply relate to physical installaton of the recording equipment within the requested area or can that mean all facets of installation to include activiation within the video recording system? For example, a request has been made and the procedural aspects of notification of affected parties is underway but the equipment and time is available to physically install in the target area, can the camera, mic, wiring, etc. be installed but not “active” in the video system until confirmation of notication procedures is complete? Or will physical installation have to wait until notification is complete? And is received confirmation of the notification from affected parties required in order for installation to be completed regardless of the definition of installation?

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