Alleged abuse energizes debate over classroom cameras - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Alleged abuse energizes debate over classroom cameras

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At Smith Middle School in Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District, an investigation has revealed that the most vulnerable students on campus were verbally humiliated and physically mistreated by an educator responsible for their care and protection.

Back in November 2012, whistleblower Becky Spurlock alerted the school's principal about the ongoing abuse.

The former classroom aid was first doubted, than discounted and ultimately asked to resign.

Spurlock, whose since been vindicated, says surveillance cameras would have confirmed her account of a clear and present danger to special needs kids.

"If they had watched them daily they would have seen it immediately and it could not have been denied. The children are not verbal, they can't speak up, so there needs to be cameras to speak for them," said Spurlock.

But like nearly every school in Texas, Smith Middle School's isolated, special needs classrooms have no surveillance cameras.

Leslie Phillips, a National Autism Association Board member says a camera at Smith Middle would have protected both the kids and the principal.

"She could see the hard evidence on camera immediately you know to protect the safety of the students because the safety of the students comes before the reputation of the institution and that's frankly what they are trying to protect," said Phillips.

Presley Villareal was among the special needs students badly mistreated at Smith Middle School.

In addition to prosecutions and termination's, Presley's parents Scott and Nikki Villareal are demanding the accountability offered by cameras.

"I think its almost absolutely necessary," said Scott.

But so far, no leader at the state capital in Austin has stepped forward to insist Texas schools provide its most defenseless students the security of surveillance.

Advocate Lou Geigerman suspects powerful forces are opposing.

"They don't want anyone looking over their shoulder and they need someone looking over their shoulder," said Geigerman.

Phillips has published research which reports that over a two year period in Texas kids with special needs were physically restrained more than 50,000 times.

She believes cameras in special ed classrooms would lower that number substantially and reduce the amount of abuse.

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