Clover schools mull whether to use cameras in special ed classes

School officials in Clover want to talk to leaders at a Greenville public school that uses cameras in special education classrooms before deciding how to move forward on the issue.

Superintendent Marc Sosne has asked the school board for time to study the camera issue further before making a recommendation on whether the district should use them.

Part of that study will including talking to or visiting a Greenville school for severely disabled children that uses cameras in all its classrooms, Sosne said. He did not know of any other South Carolina public schools that use cameras in special ed rooms.

“There is some potential, some possibilities that warrant looking at using some cameras in special ed classrooms under certain conditions in the future,” he told the board late Monday night.

School board chairman Mack McCarter asked Sosne to work with parents and help them understand the issue.

“It appears we are all trying to make sure students are safe and (that we are) transparent as we go about this,” McCarter said.

Sosne said money shouldn’t be a significant barrier.

“All of our schools are already wired for the technology we have,” he said. “Cost should not be prohibitive with this.”

About a dozen parents approached the school board last month in response to allegations of abuse in a classroom for autistic children at Larne Elementary School. Officials said they investigated the 2014 claims and were not able to substantiate them.

Some parents of special education students suggested the district install cameras in special ed rooms as a safety precaution for students who are not able to communicate.

The biggest issue with using the cameras is a federal law that requires the district to protect students’ privacy, Sosne said. The standard of privacy is different for general areas of the school, like hallways and cafeterias, where cameras are already used, than it is in classrooms.

“There’s an expectation that students in the classroom have rights to privacy as to what goes on,” Sosne told the board, citing a study by the school district’s Columbia attorney, Meredith Siebert.

Sosne also has asked the board to adopt a district visitation policy that would set standard procedures for parents to visit and observe their children’s classrooms.

Such a policy would make it easier for parents to visit and alleviate some concerns about students’ care, he said. Each school has such a policy now, but they vary slightly.

McCarter asked if the proposed policy would, in most cases, allow parents to visit or observe their child’s classroom on the same day they call and request permission to do so.

Sosne said parents should be able to visit “as expeditiously as possible.”

He expects the board to consider that policy next month.

Jennifer Becknell: 803-329-4077