Not only do we need cameras in classrooms, but audio too.

Since Berkeley County, West Virginia mother, Amber Pack, sent her non-verbal autistic daughter to school with a recording device in her hair and discovered a plethora of abuse going on in her child’s classroom, a national debate has sparked. Should there be cameras in all classrooms? Absolutely! This is a no-brainer. 

We need legislation to force all schools that serve special education students [and transportation services] to be monitored by surveillance video. This is not even a question. But here is the next part of this—would it make a difference? Would it prevent abuse from happening or just punish abusers? 

This week, it seems like my entire newsfeed was filled with abuse videos of children getting hit, kicked, and abused by school staff. It made me think about all of the preschools that my daughter has been in. All of the teachers that she cried at the sight of just their face or mention of their name. Was there more to it than I ever knew? I’ll never know. 

The last daycare center that I sent my daughter to had cameras in every classroom. As a parent, I think that gave me a false sense of security that everything was fine or secured. That abuse couldn’t possibly go on there. The cameras made it seem monitored. But what it really meant was nothing. Nobody monitored them.

There was a day when I asked to see how her teacher handled my daughter crying when I left. The owner walked me down a dusty hallway into a room that clearly nobody ever went in. It took her at least five minutes to even find the remote to turn the television on. 

On the screen appeared each classroom with zero audio. 

“We aren’t permitted to capture sound,” she told me. 

I watched, trying to focus on the one small 6” box on the screen filled with every classroom. My daughter was on the floor crying. Her teacher’s face looked flustered and irritated and she threw her hands in the air. Reading her body language told me that my child was getting under her skin. Lord knows what words flew out of her mouth since there was no sound. Some of the things I overheard her say prior to a little boy, who reminded me of my hyper child, was why I wanted to watch in the first place. 

With little choice in childcare settings, I let it go and moved on.

After all, she was going to have an ABA therapist going with her often anyway. Within a few days of her therapist going with her, that teacher suddenly vanished after a long career at that center with no explanation on where she had gone. Having that teacher gone put me at ease until both her ABA therapist and BCBA brought up some things that concerned them. 

Since my daughter’s therapists spent so much time there, they developed relationships with the staff which made them comfortable enough to be themselves. They did not refrain from yelling, screaming, and threatening to take the children’s toys, recess, and activity time away.  All things that are clearly not okay in the childcare licensing world. But what can you do when you have no other options and it isn’t your child getting verbally abused?

There was a time when we cut back her therapy hours because she had made progress.  But the daycare owners asked me to continue sending her therapists more to help out while in the same conversation complained to me that she was there too much. That the teachers complain they have no privacy. 

To this day that comment still gets under my skin. Privacy? What the hell do they need privacy for? To yell at the kids? To put them in time-out chairs and tell them they can’t go swimming because they refused to take a nap. 

Even after her therapists told me that was the worst daycare they had ever been in, I didn’t pull my child out because I had no other options. I knew it was bad and continued sending her because at least she had her therapist there with her most of the time to shield her. 

This is the part that sucks—that we have to trust people with our kids. 

That wasn’t the only time my child attended a school with surveillance. Another center claimed that my then 2-year-old, picked up a chair and threw it over her head and across the room. This was an adult-sized chair and I called bullshit. I demanded they play me the video footage since they prided themselves on having it, but they claimed their cameras did not record and only produced live footage. Was my Ally the baby hulk? I guess we’ll never know for sure. 

My biggest concern is that many videos have no audio. What is the point of that? So you can see teachers appear to be acting normal but you can’t actually hear what is going on? Everything that Amber Pack heard could never be found without recording audio. 

You never know what goes on in these places. 

I had an old co-worker send her daughter to a childcare center that charged a fee to a cellphone app that gave her access to view her daughter on their cameras throughout the day. I’ll never forget when she told me about how her daughter was crying in the corner all day long. She watched her cry and get neglected and was ignored all day despite how many phone calls she made to the director. The service that app provided was just how that center was not a good fit for their family. 

After experiencing several private schools with cameras, I have come to the conclusion that not only do classrooms needs cameras but they also need someone passively checking in from time to time to see what is really going on. Based on the number of videos coming out this year, steps need to go into preventing these incidents from occurring, not just catching people. Once the damage is done, it is done! 

Further Reading:

https://www.findingcoopersvoice.com/2019/05/02/states-require-cameras-in-special-education-classrooms/

https://wjla.com/features/7-on-your-side/disturbing-audio-recording-made-inside-an-elementary-school-classroom-in-west-virginia

https://www.wftv.com/news/trending-now/teacher-two-aides-accused-of-abusing-three-students-with-autism/912624291

https://www.salon.com/2019/01/13/a-viral-video-of-a-teacher-abusing-an-autistic-boy-highlights-how-society-misunderstands-autism/

https://fox17.com/news/local/white-county-deputies-investigating-teacher-after-claims-of-abuse-of-autistic-children

https://www.wsaz.com/content/news/Video-shows-teacher-dragging-autistic-9-year-old–504012821.html

https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2019/02/28/missouri-daycare-teacher-throw-3-year-old-ekr-orig-vstan.cnn

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