More Possible Teacher Abuse Of Kids With Special Needs: Should Classrooms Have Video Cameras?
Dribble hot sauce on crayons to deter a kid from putting them in his mouth: It’s mind-boggling that any teacher could think this was a good idea. But it’s even more mind-boggling when it involves a special-needs teacher who works with kids who have autism. This is what Lillian Gomez allegedly did in her class last fall at Sunrise Elementary school in Osceola County, Florida. She’s been suspended; a termination hearing is set for later in February.
A few months ago, a story came out about teachers caught bullying a child with special needs in Ohio; they were saying things like “Are you that damn dumb?” These stories are horrific but particularly terrifying if you have a kid with special needs. They make you wonder: Could anything like that happen in my child’s class?
I would like to think the answer is no. I know and adore my son’s teacher, and the aides in the class seem great. But stories like these sure do give you pause. They make you fear for your child, who might not be able to communicate about abusive incidents. They certainly make you wonder about what sort of checks and balances schools have for making sure these sorts of things doesn’t happen.
Mostly, though, I can’t get past how a person who works with kids who have special needs could do this. In my nine years of meeting special ed teachers and therapists, I have found nearly every one of them to be exceptionally wonderful human beings. Working with our kids has its vast rewards but it also has vast challenges; these people chose a more challenging teaching path because they care for kids with disabilities.The occasional rotten apple in the bunch, then, comes as a surprise—although in every profession, there are rotten apples in the bunch.
I don’t know the first thing about how principals or people who run schools, any schools, make sure teachers are being humane. Installing video cameras in classrooms is one viable solution, although it would be controversial in the same way nannycams are. Some might say they’re not a problem if a teacher has nothing to hide—but some might say they’re an extreme invasion of privacy. Cameras are already present in various daycare centers around the country.
Back in December 2010, a Florida state board member recommended that the state install video cameras in classrooms as a teacher evaluation tool. As she said, “This video will provide us the opportunity to have more objective evaluations.”
If the state had done that, there’s a good chance this teacher would not have used hot sauce as a discipline tool.
I would not mind a videocam in my kids’ classrooms. What’s your take on this?
Image of help card in red via Shutterstock