A new bill proposed in the Florida House of Representatives could authorize school districts the ability to adopt policies that would require video cameras in public school classrooms. The bill also calls for all recordings to be digitally stored for a minimum of three months.
House Bill 1055 (HB 1055), introduced by Rep. Bob Rommel (Naples), would require teachers to wear a microphone and would provide requirements that allow for the public viewing of footage. The bill would also mandate that if there is an interruption in the operation of the video camera for any reason, an explanation must be submitted in writing to the school principal and the district school board to explain the reason for and duration of the interruption.
If cameras capture an incident in the classroom, the bill would permit parents to request footage for personal viewing, so long as it shows abuse or neglect toward a student by a teacher, faculty member, or another student, however, the identity of any student not directly involved in the incident must be concealed through the means of a blur filter.
“The principal of the school is the custodian of the operated video camera pursuant to this section, all video recordings generated by that video camera, and access to such video recordings,” says the text of the bill. “A school with video cameras installed in classrooms shall retain the video recording until the conclusion of any investigation or any administrative or legal proceedings that result from the video recording has been completed, including, without limitation, the exhaustion of all appeals”
HB 1055 would not require school districts to adopt the measure, but rather allow them to hold meetings regarding the measure, and authorize camera installation if school board members vote to do so.
A similar Senate bill filed in December, SB 1300, seeks to require all school board meetings in Florida to be recorded and streamed live on a publicly available website, also granting members of the public further freedom to input and interject.
SB 1300 would mandate that a minimum of 30 minutes at the start of every school board meeting be allocated for individual members of the public and representatives of groups to freely speak on any topic relating to the meeting and its proceedings. Each speaker would be given at least 3 minutes to touch on each agenda item.
Florida’s public schools have become a hotbed of political turmoil with disagreements over curriculum and COVID-19 handling procedures, leading to a bevy of bills seeking to regulate classroom activity.
HB 1055, along with SB 1300 and other school-focused bills, will be deliberated on in the upcoming legislative session cycle slated to begin on Jan. 11. If passed, HB 1055 would require school boards to vote on the installation of video cameras by January of 2023.