Following a weekend when a bill to allow teachers to teach intelligent design as a scientific theory passed in the Senate 27-6, the House of Delegates furthered a less fiercely debated education bill on Monday.
The House voted 96-1 in favor of House Bill 3271, which would place audio recording devices inside special needs classrooms containing their own bathrooms. Three members were absent.
If made law, HB 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 inspired by the students of former Holz Elementary teacher Nancy Boggs, who was convicted in 2022 on 10 counts of battery against three special needs children 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.
Mazzocchi expanded on the bill’s purpose during the Monday floor session.
“It is so sad to say that there are children still abused, and especially our special needs children,” Mazzocchi said. “This bill is helping hopefully for the future that those children using the bathrooms in those attached to the special-ed classrooms, that those bathrooms are audiotaped.
“This is a need because we sadly had children that were sent into the bathroom to eat their lunch there. They were abused, verbally abused, and no one has really a proof of this. This will hopefully help us to go forward to help our very vulnerable children.”
Under an amendment 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.
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.
Delegate Dave Foggin, R-Wood, cast the lone no vote on the bill, which now goes to the Senate.