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July, 2012:

Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms

I recently made a post on our facebook site that really caught a lot of buzz.  The topic was, cameras in classrooms with special needs children and those with communication issues.  I would argue that all children will have communication issues when fearful, but none the less, the topic was special needs.  Our response was huge.  We had about 50 unique posters and 94% stated that cameras should be placed in our children’s classrooms.  Interestingly, even the teachers were in favor of the cameras and said, “bring it on.”

So why on earth would parents and teachers feel so strongly that it is time for cameras in our schools?  Each commenter had different reasons and so i would like to discuss several of those reason here.

Bullying

Look, we simply cannot pretend that bullying is not a huge issues in schools.  It IS!  In fact, studies show that 75% of children on the autism spectrum are victims of bullies.  They are easy targets.  Low functioning and non-verbal children, with autism, cannot fight back and tell on the bullies and high functioning children do not often have the social knowledge to determine who and when to tell.  There are rampant stories about children being verbally harrassed daily, trained to do inapropriate tasks for the amusement of the bullies and even being physically hurt by other children.  the more subtle bullying, the bullying that can do the most harm, happens in the classroom when the teacher is present but cannot hear.  One very high functioning child shared that the girls in the classroom all hated her.  Every time she would look up, another girl would give her a nasty look and tell her to stop staring.  In the line, they would back away from her and tell her that she was gross.  Although she had no mannerisms that would construed as gross, bathed regularly and was kind to everyone, she was being harrased daily.  Cameras in the classroom, that were randomly pulled and watched would have detected this so that this child would not have to fear and hate going to school.  Typical children face this kind of bullying every day.

Teacher Abuse

Look, we hate to say it also.  No one wants to believe that there are a few bad teachers out there.  But it does happen and we see it in the media.  Special Needs children are in even more danger of being abused because they are harder to work with, teachers may get less prase and because they do not tell.  in addition, teachers and aides have more opportunity to be alone with special needs children.  In addition, frustrated teachers, even in regular classrooms, will verbally abuse students.  But lets look at this from the other side, too.  More than one teacher and parent commented that cameras in the classrooms would also PROTECT our teachers from false allegations.  Right now, everything comes down to he said/ she said.

Parent/ Teacher Education

More than a few parents would really like to know how their child is learning, being interacted with and how they are progressing.  When my daughter was in an ABA center, we really wanted to know how to do ABA at home.  We had been told that this would be part of the program, but we also knew that we could not observe her when she knew we were watching.  She did not react the same way when we were present.  We were not afraid that she was being abused and we knew that other children were not bullying her.  We genuinely wanted more that a therapist showing us her statistical improvements.  Having her videotaped in the classroom would have really helped us to work with her at home.

The overall consensus, among teachers, parents and professionals that we talk to is that cameras in the classrooms are long overdue.  We realize that there are legal issues with privacy; however, many day cares and private schools have open door policies and cameras.  And more than a few have systems that allow parents to log on from work.  It is time to put the safety of our children and teachers as priority.