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After a committee discussed his proposal for an hour, the sponsor of a bill that would require schools to place video cameras in special education classrooms upon request agreed to temporarily hold the bill to make several changes.

House Bill 1019 by Rep. Jim Sorvillo, R-Little Rock, would mandate that schools install cameras in self-contained classrooms at the request of a student's parents or district staff.

The legislation, Sorvillo said, was inspired by several abuse incidents involving "non-verbal" students with disabilities.

Committee members -- while saying they were generally supportive of the bill's intent -- raised a handful of concerns about the particulars of the proposal, including which individuals could review footage and how much the cameras would cost school districts.

Heather Shrader, a disability advocate who helped Sorvillo draft the legislation, told the committee that a price couldn't be put on the protection of the children impacted by HB1019.

"It's for security," Shrader said. "It's not to criminalize anyone. It's not to make education harder. It's not to put anyone under a microscope, and it's certainly not to pit parent against parent.

"It's simply security in the event of abuse and neglect."

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Schools now have the ability to install cameras in classrooms, but they aren't required even if requested, as would be the case under HB1019.

The bill wouldn't allow "continuous monitoring" of classroom footage, but it would permit certain individuals such as parents, law enforcement and certain school personnel to review the video recordings if an incident is alleged.

The bill would also require schools to blur the faces of students who aren't involved in any incidents.

Officials from the Arkansas Association of Educational Administrators and the Arkansas School Boards Association spoke against the bill, raising concerns about the costs of the measure and conflicts with federal student privacy laws.

Sorvillo indicated Thursday that he'd amend the bill to further limit who could access classroom footage and clarify the amount of time that archived video must be stored. Several members also asked for additional information about the fiscal impact of the proposal on school districts.

A Section on 02/22/2019

Print Headline: Sponsor pulls bill to put cameras in some Arkansas classrooms

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  • Foghorn
    February 22, 2019 at 1:16 p.m.

    Anyone objecting to this bill - schools and special ed teachers - has something to hide. It should pass.

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