New Hampshire Schools Review Policy on Video Cameras in Classrooms

School officials say the vagueness of portions of the law has generated questions for school districts across the state regarding how many public hearings and permission slips are needed for each recording.

by Paul Feely, The New Hampshire Union Leader, Manchester / December 14, 2015 0

(TNS) -- The Manchester school board’s Coordination Committee is scheduled to review a new district policy governing the use of audio and video recordings in city classrooms when it meets next week.

The Coordination Committee is scheduled to meet on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in the Aldermanic Chambers on the third floor of City Hall.

A new state law, RSA 189:68, requires school districts to hold public hearings on recordings that might be made in a public classroom, and to obtain permission from teachers and parents for such recordings, as well as school board approval.

School officials say the vagueness of portions of the law has generated questions for school districts across the state regarding how many public hearings and permission slips are needed for each recording, as well as how school officials should handle situations involving students with disabilities who regularly record classes.

Changes to the law could come next year if legislators approve new language submitted by the bill’s original sponsor, Rep. Glenn Cordelli, R-Tuftonboro.

The law currently states, “No school shall record in any way a school classroom for any purpose without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student.”

“There are always unintended consequences, and the original language has been interpreted more broadly than I expected,” said Cordelli.

Cordelli has submitted HB 1372, an amendment to RSA 189:68, which he expects will be taken up in Concord next year that he says would address the confusion caused by the law.

HB 1372 would amend RSA 189:68, IV to read as follows: “No school shall record in any way a school classroom for [any] the purpose of teacher evaluations without school board approval after a public hearing, and without written consent of the teacher and the parent or legal guardian of each affected student. V.(a) Nothing in this section shall preclude the use of audio or video recordings for use with or by a child with a disability, or by such child’s teacher or service provider when the child’s individualized education program or accommodation plan includes audio or video recording as part of the child’s special education, related services, assistive technology service, or methodology, so long as such audio or video recordings are made, used, and maintained in accordance with the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act, 20 U.S.C. section 1232g, and applicable state law. (b) Nothing in this section shall preclude the use of audio or video recordings for student instructional purposes.”

Cordelli said his intent in drafting the original bill was to address situations where teachers were being filmed as part of an evaluation, requiring that any teachers and students involved first give their consent before being filmed.

“Those teachers and students have a right to know how that recording will be used,” said Cordelli. “My concern was always about teacher and student privacy. Now we are hearing reports where people can’t even take pictures in classrooms. That was never the intent of the legislation.”

Filming lessons in classrooms are often part of Individualized Education Programs, or IEPs, for review after school by students requiring special education assistance. Cordelli said the amended language will make it clear this practice should continue.

“It is unfortunate that these issues did not come out in the public hearings last year, but I hope this bill will correct the situations that have arisen,” said Cordelli.

The state’s Department of Education advises districts to continue allowing students with individualized education programs (IEPs) that involve recording classroom activities to do so, while adhering to the process spelled out by state law to hold public hearings, and secure school board, teacher and parental approval for that and any other type of recording.

If a parent refuses to give consent, the student in question cannot be recorded.

Manchester school officials drafted the “Safety 121 Video and Audio Recording in School Classrooms” policy in response to state law. The policy states if a teacher wants to record a class of one or more students, prior written consent must be obtained from the parent/legal guardian of each affected student in the class, and if a student or administrator wants to record a teacher, student or class, prior written consent must be obtained from the affected teacher and the parent/legal guardian of each affected student.

The district policy also states written consent is not required for video or audio recordings made as part of a student’s IEP, when deemed necessary for the student to receive a “free appropriate public education.” Written consent is also not needed to record any school sponsored event that occurs outside the physical confines of a classroom.

The Manchester Board of School Committee held a public hearing on the policy last month. No members of the general public commented on the policy at the hearing, and the school board voted to forward the policy to the Coordination Committee for review before coming back to the full board for a vote.

©2015 The New Hampshire Union Leader (Manchester, N.H.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.