CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Kanawha County parent Craig Bowden is calling the passage of two video recording bills “a huge step in the right direction” to protect students in West Virginia’s special education classrooms.
“It shows that when something bad happens, some good can come from it. It’s a victory for special needs parents,” Bowden told MetroNews Monday.
Bowden and his wife, Beth, have supported HB 4600 and SB 261 since the start of the 2022 Regular Legislative Session. Both bills were unanimously approved by the House of Delegates and Senate on Saturday, the final day of the session.
The Bowden’s son, Trenton, 9, was abused at Holz Elementary in Charleston last September. His teacher at the time, Nancy Boggs, 66, was indicted by a Kanawha County grand jury on 23 counts of battery and one count of verbal abuse of a noncommunicative child. The charges are misdemeanors.
HB 4600 would make it a felony for a person in a position of trust to verbally or physically abuse a disabled child, or to neglect to report abuse they witness.
SB 261 calls for more frequent viewing of the classroom video. A school administrator is required to review the video for no less than 15 minutes, no less than every 90 days. The school system is also allowed to release classroom video to attorneys representing students and their families and to investigators.
“Before, you couldn’t view the video unless you had a complaint. You had to have a really good reason to look at the recordings. Now, the school board can monitor it continuously if they want to and they’re actually required to monitor it,” Bowden said.
Bowden said it’s the strongest legislation tied to classroom video recordings in the nation.
“West Virginia is the only state that requires these video cameras to be in every special needs classrooms,” he said. “Now it’s even stronger.”
Bowden said his son was unable to tell him what happened in the classroom. He previously told lawmakers video showed his son and two other children being slapped across the face and having their heads slammed on desks. Some students were thrown to the floor and one student was forced to eat lunch on the bathroom floor.
“He’s very verbal. He talks to us all the time and call tell us things, but he didn’t come home that day and tell us anything that happened to him,” Bowden said.
SB 261, Bowden said, gives the most vulnerable students a voice.
“It’s a huge step to help parents feel that their kids are safe at school,” he said.
Boggs resigned her teaching position Nov. 1, 2021. She is scheduled to stand trial in April.
Both bills head to Gov. Jim Justice’s desk.