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:
- 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?
- 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?
- 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?
- 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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