KBS Reference Desk: Special Education Camera Regulations

Q:        We’re gearing up for our spring ARDs. How should we respond to parent requests for video surveillance made after annual ARD meetings?

A:        In accordance with Section 29.022 of the Texas Education Code and its newly adopted implementing regulations, the district should respond in accordance with  the specific timeframes related to: (1) a parent’s request for cameras; (2) the district’s response to the request; and (3) if applicable, the start of camera operations.

In January, TEA formally adopted new and revised regulations implementing Section 29.022 of the Texas Education Code, which pertains to video surveillance in special education settings. See 19 Tex. Admin. Code §§ 103.1301, .1303. Among other changes, Section 103.1301 was updated to reflect existing statutory requirements pertaining to parent requests for cameras after annual ARD meetings. In particular, when an ARD Committee determines that a student’s placement for the following school year will be a classroom or other special education setting eligible for installation of cameras, there are specific deadlines for: (1) a parent’s installation request; (2) the district’s response; and (3) if applicable, the start of camera operations.        

The first timing consideration pertains to a parent’s installation request. When an ARD Committee determines that a student’s placement for the following school year will be in a classroom or other special education setting eligible for installation of cameras, a parent may request cameras by the later of the last day of the current school year or the 10th school business day following the ARD Committee meeting. A district may properly deny a request made outside of this timeframe.

The second timing consideration involves the district’s response, which must occur within seven (7) school business days of the request. When determining whether to grant or deny a request, a school district must verify not only that the request is timely, but also that the ARD Committee’s placement decision involves a self-contained classroom or other special education setting, as those terms are defined by the implementing regulations (e.g., a classroom or setting where the majority of students receive special education for more than 50% of the day, such as full-time PPCD, self-contained mild/moderate/severe, a residential care and treatment facility, etc.).

Finally, if the request is granted, the cameras must begin operating by the later of: (1) the 10th class day in the fall semester; or (2) the 45th school business day, or the first day of classes after the 45th school business day, after the request is made. If a district does not believe it can meet these deadlines, it may request an extension of time from the Commissioner of Education pursuant to 19 Texas Administrative Code § 103.1303. While the statutory right to request an extension already existed, there was previously no guidance or defined process for a school district to do so prior to the newly adopted regulation.

According to Section 103.1303, a district must request an extension of time as soon as possible and no later than 45th school business day following the camera request. The district’s request must specify why the extension should be granted and should include any supporting documentation and applicable legal authority. The district must also identify all interested parties such as parents and staff impacted by the cameras. Interested parties will have 10 calendar days to file a response. The Commissioner may make the decision based on the filings alone or in conjunction with an evidentiary hearing. Relevant considerations include contracting statutes, architectural and structural issues, and the difference in costs to the district if a moderate extension is allowed. In general, a district can expect to receive a final decision from the Commissioner within 45 calendar days.