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Cameras would be required in special ed classrooms if bill passes

CARSON CITY — Special education classrooms in Nevada could soon be equipped with cameras under legislation considered by lawmakers Monday.

Senate Bill 158, introduced by Sen. Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, would require school districts to provide public and charter schools with cameras capable of recording sound for classrooms made up primarily of students in special education programs.

“What I’m asking for in this particular bill is really to try and protect those kids who are nonverbal, who aren’t really able to communicate what’s been going on with them in the classroom,” Hammond said.

The camera can only record the classroom during a regular school day and recordings would only be kept for 45 days. Under the bill, recordings could only be viewed, released or used if those in the recording consent and only for the purpose of being used in a legal proceeding, if there is an investigation or possible criminal activity, or in response to a subpoena.

Parents or guardians of the students who are “likely to be recorded” are required to receive a written notice, and a written notice of the recording must be posted at the entrance of the classroom.

The bill would require elementary schools to begin installing cameras by July 1, 2024. Middle schools, junior high schools and high schools would be required to begin installing cameras by July 1, 2026.

But the bill has a fiscal note. Between local school districts, charter school districts and Nevada System of Higher Education institutions, the cost for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is approximately $4.2 million. Five local school districts did not provide a cost estimate.

“The cost can be a factor in all this, just putting cameras in the classrooms that we’re talking about is going to be very expensive,” Hammond said.

Similar bills were introduced in the 2017 session (by then-Sen. Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas) and in the 2019 session, by Hammond, but both failed to get a vote on the Senate floor.

The issue has come up repeatedly in the past, in response to alleged abuse in the classroom. In 2015, two parents of children attending Forbuss Elementary School requested classroom cameras after a teacher was arrested by school district police for allegedly abusing a student several times.

Then in 2019, parents of special education students demanded protection for special needs students, saying they were routinely abused in Clark County classrooms. The parents of one autistic child asked for permission for their son to wear a monitoring device after a teacher was arrested for allegedly hitting the boy with a stick, but the district balked at the request. (The charges against the teacher were reduced and ultimately dismissed.)

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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