Louisiana schools could face deadline to install cameras in special needs classrooms

Some school systems have yet to start implementation

By: - March 23, 2022 5:47 pm

Canva image

Louisiana schools may be required to install cameras in special needs classrooms by year’s end. But that’s only if the state finds the money to support the initiative.

Last year, the Louisiana Legislature approved a law that added that requirement, but some schools have yet to implement the technology. 

“Parents would like to see the school districts at least develop a policy,” said Sen. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge. 

Foil authored last year’s bill and Senate Bill 45, which would add a Dec. 31, 2022, deadline  for schools to implement policies relating to adding cameras in special needs classrooms

SUPPORT NEWS YOU TRUST.

“So when and if funding becomes available, it can be enacted fairly quickly,” said Foil, who’s proposal doesn’t include funding for the camera.

Ethan Melancon, director of governmental affairs for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, said finding the money for cameras in the classrooms has been “tricky.”

“We have been exploring this for a while… We’ve reached dead ends across every avenue we’ve looked,” Melancon told the committee.

While school systems did receive funding from the American Rescue Plan, most of it can only be spent on specific pandemic-related costs such as contact tracing and other COVID-19 costs, Danielle Mitchell, deputy chief of operations for the Louisiana Department of Education, said.

The education department doesn’t know how many Louisiana schools have put cameras in special needs classrooms, Mitchell said.

During testimony on Foil’s bill in the Senate Education Committee last year, East Baton Rouge parent Mary Elizabeth Christian said her daughter Grace, who has autism, epilepsy and a neuromuscular disorder, was restrained without her consent while in preschool.

“My beautiful curly headed girl had been strapped to a chair every day,” Christian said. “I think this bill is another step in protecting our children. Children who cannot speak for themselves and are vulnerable.”

Kathleen Cannino of St. Tammany Parish, mother of a child with a genetic disorder, said that even if Foil’s bill is approved and school systems implement policies, they will still drag their feet to actually pay for the cameras.

St. Tammany Parish is “not going to do anything with (camera implementation) until the funding is provided. And if parents want it, they’re going to give the bill to the parents, they said,” Cannino said.

The pushback on installing cameras is keeping schools from protecting special needs students, she added.

“Every year this goes on, they suffer more,” Cannino said.

Committee Chairman Sen. Cleo Fields, D-Baton Rouge, asked Melancon if the state school board can report back to the committee next week on how many schools have put policies in place for installing cameras since’s Foil’s legislation last year passed.

Fields also asked the BESE’s legal team if they can find a way to use American Rescue Plan money on camera installation and work around federal spending requirements. He also asked that officials talk to the Senate Finance Committee to “see if you can find the funding for Sen. Foil’s bill.”

GET THE MORNING HEADLINES DELIVERED TO YOUR INBOX

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

JC Canicosa
JC Canicosa

JC Canicosa is an award-winning journalist at The Louisiana Illuminator. Canicosa has previous experience at Investigate-TV and The Loyola Maroon and earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Loyola University New Orleans. At Loyola, he was the senior staff writer at The Maroon and the president of the school's chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. Off the clock, Canicosa enjoys playing basketball, watching movies and dabbling in comedy writing.

MORE FROM AUTHOR