Do special-ed kids need teacher-cams?

Credit: LA Johnson/NPR

Texas will require schools to videotape classrooms with special-ed students, if a parent or teacher requests it.

The law applies to any self-contained classroom in which at least half the students receive special-ed services for at least half the day, reports NPR.

Last year, an NBC-5 investigation exposed “calm rooms” — padded closets — at some North Texas schools.

Some of these rooms had cameras. In one cringe-worthy video recording, a teacher forced an 8-year-old boy with autism inside a room, forced him to the floor and held the door shut despite his protests.

Parents protested. State Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Texas, sponsored legislation to “give a voice to someone who could not speak up when they were abused at school.” He says videotaping also will protect teachers from false accusations.

It’s not clear how many cameras will be required or how much it will cost to record and store footage.

If one parent requests camera, other students’ parents can’t block the videotaping.

Why teens drop out — and come back

Abusive or absent parents, unsafe schools, gangs, homelessness and teen pregnancy make school a low priority for some high school students, concludes a GradNation report, Don’t Call Them Dropouts. Many of the “interrupted-enrollment students” interviewed in 16 cities said “nobody cared” if they stayed in school.

A “caring connection” with an adult who can help with problem solving could keep many of these teens on track, the report said. It also recommended “fewer exit ramps” from school and easier re-entry.

Autistic boy records teachers’ insults

Ten-year-old Akian Chafetz, who is autistic, was bullied at school — by his teacher and aide in a class for autistic children, charges a New Jersey father. Stuart Chaifetz sent his son to school with a recorder in his pocket.

A teacher or aide can be heard saying angrily, “Who are you talking to? Nobody. Knock it off.” Akian is also told several times to shut his mouth.

After being scolded several times, Akian begins to cry and the administrator said, “Go ahead and scream because guess what? You’re going to get nothing until your mouth is shut.”

At another point, the teacher or aide calls Akian a “bastard” when he will not stop crying.

Chaifetz posted the recording on a Facebook site, No More Teacher Bullies, and took it to the district office. The aide was fired, he says, but the teacher, who has tenure, was transferred to another school.

However, Cherry Hill Superintendent Maureen Reusche said in a statement that “the individuals who are heard on the recording raising their voices and inappropriately addressing children no longer work in the district and have not since shortly after we received the copy of the recording.”

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Chaifetz isn’t the first parent to send a disabled child to school with a recording device, notes ABC. “In March, two Alabama teachers were put on administrative leave after the mother of 10-year-old Jose Salinas, who has cerebral palsy, attached an audio recorder to the bottom of his wheelchair and caught them scolding him about drooling, among other things.”

I predict many more parents will try this if they think their child isn’t able to tell them what goes on at school.

Ed Week‘s Nirvi Shah cites other cases and also thinks we’ll see more covert recording.

Update: The Cherry Hill special education teacher says she was at a meeting when the aides yelled at Akian and heard no abuse of the boy. The father says he’s got several more hours of tape that implicates the teacher.

Abuse in literature

Lessons from Literature hopes to persuade English teachers to use literature to “facilitate discussion and build awareness about physical, verbal and sexual abuse.”  The first two sample lessons use Their Eyes Were Watching God and Lord of the Flies.

Chicago kids report teacher abuse

Hundreds of students charge they’ve been beaten by teachers, coaches and staff at Chicago public schools, reports CBS 2. Although 568 complaints were verified from 2003-08, only 24 teachers lost their jobs, reports Dave Savini.

The 2 Investigators found reports of students beaten with broomsticks, whipped with belts, yard sticks, struck with staplers, choked, stomped on and pushed down stairs. One substitute teacher even fractured a student’s neck.

But even more alarming, in the vast majority of cases, teachers found guilty were only given a slap on the wrist.

“If someone hits a student, they are going to be fired. It’s very, very simple,” said Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools and now U.S. Secretary of Education.

Before heading to Washington, he vowed to take action.

“Any founded allegation where an adult is hitting a child, hitting a student — they’re going to be gone,” Duncan said.

However, the 568 verified abuse cases lead to warnings,  not termination, in all but a few cases.

Records show one teacher who quote “battered students for several years” was simply given a “warning” by the Board of Education.

And another student was given “100 licks with a belt.” The abuse was substantiated, but the records show the teacher was not terminated.

That “100 licks” seems incredible. I can’t imagine anyone hitting a kid that much — or doing it and not being charged with a crime.

This happened on Duncan’s watch, notes Rhymes with Right.