Bolstered particular schooling digital camera regulation passes W.Va. Home
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – The abuse of a Kanawha County student and the persistence of his parents led to an unanimous vote Thursday as lawmakers moved to strengthen a camera law for special education classrooms.
Cameras have been in special education classrooms since 2019, but watching the video required a report of abuse.
The legislation advanced Thursday, Senate Bill 261, increases how long schools must keep the recording, extends the window for when someone can request to review the video and requires that a school official watch at least 15 minutes every 90 days.
Delegates passed the bill 100-0. The state Senate will need to sign off on a minor change to the legislation, after which it would proceed to the Governor’s Office.
Del. Margitta Mazzocchi, R-Logan, used the story of abuse at a Kanawha County elementary school to underscore the importance of a camera law for special needs classrooms.
“They get slapped on the face,” she said from the house floor. “They get pushed on in their stomach, and they pull on the pony tail and get slapped. It’s horrible the abuse that is happening and we only were only able to recognize that there is an abuse because a bus aide recognized that a little child had a busted lip.
“Do we have to have blood flowing first before we are doing something?”
Del. Barbara Fleischauer, D-Monongalia, spoke of similar abuse. She recalled a teacher barricading her non-verbally, grandson in a bathroom for 25 minutes.
“It’s a complicated problem,” she told fellow lawmakers. “I don’t really want principals who are helping out with kids who have emotional problems to be watching films all day. It’s a balancing.”
Del. Roy Cooper, R-Summers, spent many years as a special education teacher.
“It is definitely good for both sides because that camera is a record of exactly what went on. It’s not relying on what people remember went on or what people think they remember. It’s an exact record.”
Abuse suffered by Trenton Bowden at Holz Elementary School spurred his father, Craig Bowden, to action.
Craig Bowden estimates he spent 25 days pleading his case to lawmakers during session. He watched Thursday’s vote from the gallery.
“We fought really hard to make this bill even stronger, and we kind of fell short with what we were going after, but this bill is a huge step and it’s a good start, so I’m very satisfied,” he said afterwards.
Mazzocchi recognized Bowden’s work and their yearning for more action.
“I want you to help me, light this board up green, and knowing that we have our work cut out, and I hope that I will be here next year and help this to come through because we need to protect our children,” she said in closing her speech.
Delegates answered Mazzocchi’s call with an unanimous vote.
Another bill that would make the abuse suffered by Bowden’s son a felony, remains pending in the state Senate. The 60-day session ends at midnight Saturday.
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