A student filed a complaint with the Texas Education Agency, alleging that a school district failed to comply with the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and provide an education appropriate for the student's needs. As part of the complaint, the student's parents requested that the district give them all records about the student that contained personally identifiable information about the student and the parents. This request included video recordings.
The student's classroom had a video camera installed in accordance with a state law that requires school districts to conduct audio and video surveillance in self-contained special education classrooms upon request by a parent or school district staff member. However, the district declined to produce the recordings from this camera and argued that the recordings were confidential and could only be released under specific circumstances that did not exist in this case.
The hearing examiner noted that the purpose of the statute that allowed the video cameras to be installed in the classroom is to promote the safety of students and that the recordings are confidential and may only be released under specific circumstances, such as when a complaint has been reported to a school district that could involve abuse or neglect. There were no allegations of abuse or neglect in this case. However, the parents claimed that another part of the law permitted the district to release the video recordings to them. Specifically, the law states that the parents could access the videos if they were "educational records" as defined by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).
FERPA gives a parent the right to access their student's education records when those records contain information directly related to the student. The hearing examiner explained that this does not mean that parents are entitled to all videos or photographs that contain their child's image. Rather, the visual representation of the student must be about the student; for example, a video that shows the student fighting another student as part of a disciplinary proceeding, or shows a student having a health emergency. Video obtained from a camera installed in a classroom and maintained for the purpose of ensuring general student welfare and safety is not considered to be "directly related" to the student.
The hearing examiner concluded that the parents did not have the right to view the requested videos and that they were confidential.