Attorney General’s Opinion on SB 507 Not Favorable to Schools

by Lori Gracey

Previously the Commissioner of Education, Mike Morath, requested an opinion from the Texas Attorney General regarding the implementation of Senate Bill 507 relating to the use of cameras and video recording equipment in special education classrooms. The opinion was released on September 13, 2016. The AG’s opinion does not bring good news for Texas schools. The summary of this opinion is below.

  • If a parent, staff member, or board member makes a request for video equipment to be placed in a self-contained classroom or other special education setting in which a majority of students in regular attendance are: (1) provided special education and related services; and (2) assigned to a self-contained classroom or other special education setting for at least 50 percent of the instructional day, then this equipment must be placed in all classrooms in the district that fit this description.
  • A “staff member” cannot be narrowly defined as only those actually working in special education classrooms as described in (1) above. He uses the definition of staff as given in the New Oxford American Dictionary: “All the people employed by a particular organization.” Thus, any staff member can make the request to install video and audio recording equipment in classrooms as described above.
  • A school district can discontinue operation and maintenance of a camera if a setting in which the camera has been placed no longer fits the description as defined in (1) above.

The Attorney General recognized that some legislators did not mean SB 507 to be interpreted this way, However, he referenced several Texas Supreme Court rulings that indicated that a legislator’s intent does not override the plain meaning of the words used in the bill. He recognized that this law will have large financial burdens on school districts, but the only remedy would be for the Legislature to amend the statute. TCEA will continue to work with the Legislature to make SB 507 less onerous for school districts.

Click here for a link to the original article. Click here for an article about the TEA’s request for AG’s expedited opinion

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