Classroom Video in NJ Reveals Abuse of Student with Disabilities

Another special education teacher in New Jersey is facing disciplinary action for an inappropriate tirade against a child with special needs.  You may recall a case in New Jersey from last year in which a tenured teacher was discharged for inapropriately berating a special needs student, and now another such case may be coming down the pike.

According to news reports, a special education teacher was on his cell phone during class, and uttered a curse word overheard by the students.  One child with a brain injury from an accident said something to the effect of:  “You shouldn’t say that word.”  The teacher lost his temper and launched into a tirade against the child for not keeping his place in the teacher/student relationship, which culminated with the teacher telling the child to “go cry to your counselor.”  Fortunately for the students in the class, the berating of the child was caught on another student’s cell phone video.

You can watch the video and review one of the news reports here: http://fairlawn-saddlebrook.patch.com/groups/schools/p/fair-lawn-high-teacher-on-leave-following-video-leak

Perhaps what was most disappointing were comments from the community that were posted to some of the news reports.  Large numbers of residents were very much in support of the teacher, and emotionally charged against students with special needs.  One poster even assumed that the child with a brain injury must be some sort of “dirt bag.” Others claimed that inclusion was the problem.

Clearly, the work in educating the general public is still beginning.  On the one hand there is outrage at students who receive education in a non-public school because of the costs.   Yet on the other hand these same students are denigrated when educated in an inclusive setting because their disabilities sometimes create difficulties for others.   It appears that, for some, these students should not be educated at all.

One common additional factor in both of these examples is that the presence of video in the classroom was the only reason people gave these incidents serious attention.  Had the special education students merely reported the incidents without supporting evidence, it is highly unlikely that anything significant would have happened in either case.   It reminds us that (subject to obvious privacy issues such as recording in a bathroom) a student can legally record in New Jersey (a “one-party consent” state for purposes of recording) without the knowledge of the other person so long as the recorder is on his person, as opposed for example to leaving a recorder running unattended in a desk or coat room.

Perhaps one day cameras will be as common in the classroom as they now have become on police vehicles.  It would certainly act as a deterrent to teacher misconduct, as well as protect a teacher from false accusations.

I’m in favor.  Are you?

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