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Bill aimed at further special education classroom monitoring clears first Senate committee

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A bill that would further enhance the monitoring of special education classrooms in West Virginia is getting closer to final passage.

HB 3271, already approved in the House of Delegates, cleared its first Senate hurdle Thursday when it was approved by the Senate Education Committee.

The bill calls for audio recording to be done in bathrooms adjacent to special education classrooms.

Charleston residents Craig and Beth Bowden, whose son was a victim of classroom abuse by a now convicted, former teacher, are shepherding the bill through the process. They both say students can be taken to a bathroom and abused. Craig Bowden told the committee the bill closes a loophole in the existing law.

“You can take a child in the bathroom and obviously you shut the door, it’s a fire-proof door. There are video and audio recordings in the classroom but you aren’t going to be able to hear anything or see anything that’s going on in that bathroom,” Bowden said.

Bowden said special education teachers and aides can use the privacy of the bathroom to their advantage to hand out abuse.

“They’ll try to create an environment of fear so they can enforce compliance and can control the class inappropriately,” Bowden said. “These audio recordings in the bathrooms should be able to detect physical abuse if there’s a slap or something like that.”

The bill only applies to bathrooms that are attached to self-contained classrooms. A parent can opt out of the monitoring in their child’s individual education plan (IEP). Bowden said he believes most parents will agree to allow the recordings after they understand the option is another step toward protecting their child.

The bill next goes to the Senate Finance Committee.

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