TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A bill introduced in Florida's House of Representatives would allow video cameras in public classrooms beginning in July.
The bill, HB 1055, introduced by Rep. Bob Rommel (R-Naples), would allow public school districts to place video cameras in classrooms to record an "incident" and require certain classroom teachers to wear a microphone as well in the event that footage needed to be reviewed.
An incident could include abuse or anything that goes against proper conduct for employees and students in a school district, according to the bill.
"Children are our most precious assets in the state of Florida and we should make sure we do everything we can to protect them and teachers too," said Rep. Rommel. "There are incidents, a teacher/student incident, and we want to make sure we protect everyone in the classroom."
The video camera would be placed at the front of the classroom and capable of monitoring all areas of the classroom and recording audio, except in areas like restrooms and changing areas.
"It’s not live-streamed. So, the teacher’s privacy and how they teach their class is not going to be infringed on," said Rommel, who explained that the footage would only be pulled for review if there was an incident in question.
The Florida Education Association, the largest teachers union in the state sent this statement from President Andrew Spar:
“We have questions about this bill regarding parental rights and other issues. Could law enforcement or the district use the video to investigate a situation dealing with a student without parental knowledge? Can the video be used by law enforcement if a student harms another student or a school employee? Can a teacher use the recording to show that they did not get assistance in a timely manner after calling the office? Can it be used as evidence to show how effective a teacher is in the classroom?”
The proposed legislation would not mandate cameras in the classroom but it would allow individual school boards to implement the policies on their own.
"They will vote on it to see if it’s worth it to protect students and teachers," Rep. Rommel said.
Angie Snow, an elementary educator in Hillsborough County doesn't like the bill and thinks it's hard enough to keep good teachers in the classroom.
"Morale is not high in education with teachers and this is just going to look to teachers as another way to catch them," Snow said.
Snow, who is a media specialist at a magnet school, raised concerns about logistics and finances, asking who would be responsible for sorting through hours of footage to find the exact incident a parent wanted to view.
"An allegation is all it takes for a parent to get access and then there’s critiquing and criticizing of everything else," added Snow.
The bill would need to pass several committees before being considered by the entire Florida House of Representatives.