Should teachers be allowed to record students in the classroom?
FORT WORTH — The United Educators Association in Fort Worth is encouraging its 20,000 members to use camera phones to deal with unruly students inside the classroom.
It's a controversial subject that most North Texas school districts say they haven't had to deal with, but with technology creeping into the classrooms, some say it's only a matter of time.
"A classroom is not an expectation of privacy... that's a public forum anybody can walk in, walk out... not an expectation of privacy," said UEA executive director Larry Shaw.
Shaw admits he's in for a battle.
State law lets educators record a student for safety and discipline reasons in "common" areas. But school districts are allowed to interpret what a "common" area is.
While districts have installed cameras on buses, hallways and on other school property, many stop short when it comes to documenting what happens inside a classroom.
Fort Worth, Arlington, Dallas and Plano ISDs do not consider classrooms a "common" area, and do not let teachers record video there.
Former Arlington teacher Jane Pavelko found out the hard way.
She taught for 34 years, a majority of them at Shackelford Junior High School.
Last October, she was confronted by a student in her classroom who was upset about being disciplined.
"She became quite upset; the term I used at the time was 'ballistic,'" Pavelko said.
In an effort to calm things down, Pavelko said she took out her camera phone and pointed it at the student. The Arlington school teacher said she didn't actually record, but made the student believe she was.
"I thought if she believed she was being recorded, she would stop; she would realize how she was acting and would stop," Pavelko said.
Later that day, Pavelko was disciplined by her principal and a letter of reprimand was added to her file saying she broke board policy.
Pavelko also met with administrators and the child's parents about the incident.
The frustration from the event contributed to her resignation.
In a statement to News 8, a spokesperson for the Arlington ISD said that "a classroom is not a common area, so she should not have been recording."
Shaw says cameras are gradually being accepted in classrooms as teaching aids for students and teachers. He said his organization will fight against any school district who disciplines a teacher for recording a student, as long as they're following state regulations.