Alabama Senate committee approves bill putting cameras in special education classrooms

Senate Education Policy committee also approves bills on adrenal injections, teacher certification

By: - March 22, 2023 6:59 am
A man in profile with his back facing the camera.

Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the chairman of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee, on the floor of the Alabama Senate on March 7, 2023. Legislators gathered Tuesday for the first day of the Alabama Legislature’s 2023 regular session. (Brian Lyman/Alabama Reflector)

The Alabama Senate Education Policy Committee approved three bills Tuesday afternoon, two aimed at student safety.

All three were sponsored by Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, the chair of the Senate Finance and Taxation Education Committee.

One bill, SB52, will require cameras in special education classrooms in case a student is injured at school. Under the legislation, the videos would only be reviewed when student abuse is 

“And, if a child falls or the child has a bruise or comes home or with some kind of injury, perhaps, parents many times they can’t ask them, Johnny or little Billy, ‘What happened to you?’ because little Johnny and Billy can’t, they can’t talk,” Orr said. “They can’t communicate.”

As written, the bill would require school districts to pay for the cameras themselves. Orr brought an amendment approved by the committee that would allow school districts to fund the cameras with outside money. Sen. Vivian Davis Figures, D-Mobile, said during the meeting that she plans to bring an amendment to the bill when it’s on the floor. Figures said she wants to use the money that the governor appropriated for charter schools to fund these cameras in lieu of coming out of the budgets of local school boards.

The governor’s budget proposes $10 million for charter schools.

“”This is a subject matter that is the health, safety and welfare of our children–” she said.

“Oh, it’s important,” Orr said.

“–Particularly children may not, can’t help themselves. So that is the reason I can’t vote for money going to charter schools or private schools before adequately funding our public schools,” Figures said.

Charter schools are public schools but operate independently of local school systems.

The bill was approved.

Kimberly McFadden, who lives in Orr’s senate district and proposed the bill to him, spoke about her own experience as both a mother of a special education student and as someone who is in the process of becoming a special education teacher. 

“Our family unfortunately knows the long-term effects of abuse on a child in a classroom,” she said to committee members. “I believe cameras in the special education classroom is a solution to give our children a voice and to help protect them.”

She previously told the Alabama Reflector about her son’s experience being abused in his special education classroom.

The committee also approved SB52 allows certain teachers to administer injectable adrenal medication to students. 

SB46 establishes the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact Commission, which allows teachers in the commission’s member states to move across state lines easier with their teacher’s certification. Alabama already allows reciprocal teaching certification with many states.

The bills move on to the full Senate.

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Jemma Stephenson
Jemma Stephenson

Jemma Stephenson covers education as a reporter for the Alabama Reflector. She previously worked at the Montgomery Advertiser and graduated from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.