A bill that proposes placing audio recording devices inside special needs classrooms with their own bathrooms was recently approved in the House Education Committee.
If approved on the House floor, House Bill 3271 would add audio recording devices to roughly 421 applicable self-contained classroom bathrooms serving special needs students in West Virginia. The measure would add to the expanding security portfolio of special needs classrooms themselves, which already include video recording to monitor for abuse.
Delegate Margitta Mazzocchi, R-Logan, who introduced the bill, said it was the latest bill inspired by the young victims of former Holz Elementary teacher Nancy Boggs, who was convicted in 2022 on 10 counts of battery against three special needs students and sentenced to 10 years in jail.
Videos of the classroom showed Boggs’ verbal abuse as well as various acts of battery, which included hitting, hair pulling, pushing, slamming a child’s head onto a desk and pulling a chair out from underneath a child, causing them to fall.
“This is the third out of our trilogy that has to come through,” Mazzocchi said. “...We wanted to put, at that time, this audio device in the special ed restrooms to catch the bad actors, the teachers that are abusing the children. It is happening.”
Under an amendment to the bill introduced by Delegate Heather Tully, R-Nicholas, parents would be allowed to opt their children out of using recorded facilities and make arrangements with staff to use another facility.
“You can have students that have bathroom anxiety or stool retention for various reasons,” said Tully.
Recordings would be required by law to be monitored for 15 minutes every 90 days by a school’s principal or a designee selected by the county school system. A notice would also have to be placed on applicable bathroom doors indicating that audio recording was taking place.
The devices would cost about $500 per restroom, according to West Virginia Deputy State Superintendent of Schools Michele Blatt, who said the bill did not indicate whether devices would be continuously recording or sound activated. If approved, the measure would be implemented by Aug. 1.
Another delegate said the recording devices would not only protect students, but help protect teachers from erroneous allegations as well.
With only one no vote, the bill was referred to the House Judiciary Committee before moving to the floor for consideration.
The bill was also sponsored by Delegates Laura Kimble, R-Harrison; Josh Holstein, R-Boone; Tom Fast, R-Fayette; Joe Ellington, R-Mercer; Todd Longanacre, R-Greenbrier; Chuck Horst, R-Berkeley; Danielle Walker, D-Monongalia; Joe Statler, R-Monongalia; Riley Keaton, R-Roane; and Debbie Warner, R-Monongalia.