KELLER, Texas — A North Texas mother’s efforts to get cameras installed in classrooms with special needs students for increased safety are finally coming to fruition.
Breggett Rideau had been lobbying the Texas Legislature for several years to require school districts around the state to install and operate video cameras in some special education classrooms if requested by parents, a trustee or a staff member, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported (http://bit.ly/2ctfXNY ).
Rideau’s 21-year-old son, a special needs student called Terrance, suffered a fractured thumb and dislocated knee between 2008 and 2010 while studying at a middle school in Keller, 20 miles northeast of Fort Worth.
She alleged in a federal lawsuit that a special education teacher no longer with the school district caused the injuries, and in 2013 the Rideaus won a $1 million judgment against the Keller school district.
Terrance Rideau is a non-verbal special needs student who uses a wheelchair and has attended Keller schools since the age of 3.
Rideau made at least 20 trips to Austin in 2013 and 2015 trying to get the law passed, hiring lobbyists in the last session to help her.
“I didn’t have a clue how to do this when I started,” Rideau said. “I got a degree in food science, not law and public policy, but I prayed and God helped me.”
Her efforts paid off. Starting this school year, a law takes effect requiring cameras in classrooms with special needs students.
Officials say her son’s classroom at Keller High School is one of the first in Texas to be equipped with cameras and audio equipment at the request of a parent.
State Education Commissioner Mike Morath updated the rules on Aug. 15 when school districts were instructed not to use federal or state special education money to pay for the cameras and related equipment.
The estimated costs vary from one district to another. The updated state rules say that “on a per classroom basis, school districts have estimated costs ranging between $3,500 and $5,500. School districts have estimated that conducting video surveillance districtwide could cost anywhere from $350,000 to $6.8 million.”
Rideau said she hopes the law is introduced at a federal level and has talked to interested parents across the United States and in Canada. A Facebook group, “Cameras in special needs classrooms,” has more than 26,000 likes.
“Every child deserves to be safe in school,” she said.
Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, http://www.star-telegram.com