Where did $8 million for cameras in special education classrooms go? Lawmakers want answers.

By: - May 23, 2023 6:00 am
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Louisiana lawmakers want more information from state education officials about what they’ve done with $8 million set aside last year to put cameras in special education classrooms.

“I want direct answers to what has happened to the cameras,” Sen. Regina Barrow, D-Baton Rouge, said Monday during a Louisiana Senate Finance Committee hearing. 

Advocates for children with disabilities have been trying for years to get cameras installed in special education classrooms. A few parents of children with special needs have testified their kids return home from school with marks and bruises that indicate abuse. Some have caught school staff berating their children on secret recording devices they sent with them to school

Lawmakers decided to spend $8 million on classroom cameras in an effort to protect children with special needs at school, particularly students who are nonverbal and can’t speak up for themselves. One advocate said school districts still refuse to install cameras, despite having the money to do so.

“[School officials] never give that timeline for when that camera will be installed,” Corhonda Corley, the parent of a child with special needs, said at Monday’s legislative hearing. “There has to be a timeframe.”

The Louisiana Department of Education distributed the money for cameras directly to school districts in August and September last year. State law dictates that school systems must install a camera in a classroom if a parent of a child with special needs requests one, so education officials made sure school districts had the money for the cameras as soon as possible. 

“This was a number one priority. That’s why we sent the money out so fast,” said Ethan Melancon, director of governmental affairs with the state education department.

But education officials won’t know how many schools have put up cameras for at least another few weeks, when the school year ends.

“That money is going to sit in those accounts until a parent or advocates ask for a camera,” Melancon said. “We cannot force them to all put cameras in the classroom.”

Barrow said lawmakers need to know which school districts have installed special education cameras before allocating any more money to the program. Education officials want an additional $800,000 this year to help with the cameras upkeep. The senator said she wasn’t inclined to vote to hand over that money until she had more information about where cameras have been installed.


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Julie O'Donoghue
Julie O'Donoghue

Julie O’Donoghue is a senior reporter for the Louisiana Illuminator. She’s received awards from the Virginia Press Association and Louisiana-Mississippi Associated Press.