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Parents propose security cameras in classrooms to prevent future assaults

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Alfredo Andrade-Gaytan, an Austin ISD teacher who allegedly sexually assaulted one of his kindergarten students, bonded out of jail Wednesday.

Several parents proposed the use of security cameras in school classrooms when they first heard about Andrade-Gaytan's charges.

"You can very well put cameras or something in the classroom so we can see what they're actually doing. That's the problem. The teachers are free to say and do whatever they want," Kalina Orwick said.

"I think they deserve to be protected just like how we protect them at home, it needs happen at school," she added.

District officials said putting cameras in classrooms, where the alleged assault occurred, is against the law. The District cites section 26.009 of the Texas Education Code that says cameras are only allowed to be used without parental consent for safety purposes in common areas. What constitutes a common area is left up to the District's interpretation.

"The classroom is a private space that needs to be respected," said Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin, the labor union for AISD.

Some parents see it differently.

"It is a public space. There's no expectation of privacy there," said Diana Owen who said she is on the fence about the idea of cameras in classrooms.

"I think that it's another step towards security over freedom, which is a danger in itself," Owen added.

"Cameras are everywhere so I'm not worried about safety in that respect or their invasion of privacy. I feel like it's a little bit of overkill. I'd rather see the money spent elsewhere," parent Liz McGuire said about the issue.

Zarifis said he sympathizes with parents who think cameras might help keep their kids safe at school, but he doesn't think cameras in classrooms are the solution.

"If you look at all the cameras we have throughout the city, all the cameras we have on stoplights, all the cameras we have on every little corner of Sixth Street, has it stopped violence? I don't think it has," Zarifis said.

Zarifis said creating a safe, trusting environment for students is important, but he says that shouldn't come from technology.

"You don't need a camera to do those things. You need good teachers to do those things," Zarifis said.

Last year several parents advocated for a bill that would allow cameras in special needs classrooms.

The bill passed the Senate, but never made it out of the House Calendars Committee.

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