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Support for Senate Bill 158 will help Nevada children (opinion)


Submitted by Katherine Villaseñor, Marta Juarez, Emma Jonkey

This legislative session, Nevada’s elected officials will be given a chance to help protect disabled children. Oftentimes when people think of young children they think of laughter and chatter, maybe even the stereotypical tattling. 

But what happens when a child can do none of these? This is the reality for many children in Nevada. 

An even worse reality for Nevada parents is children coming home with unexplainable bruises and markings after school. 

And that begs the question, how can a nonverbal child report abuse that has happened to them? Additionally, how can an educator mitigate false allegations of abuse?

At times, it can be easy to ignore negative things that do not affect us directly. However, recent lawsuits in both northern and southern Nevada have proven that the abuse of disabled children in schools is a real problem. 

For example a lawsuit was made in Clark County School District involving the sexual abuse of two disabled preschoolers and was settled for $9 million. Another case involving criminal negligence by an educator and battery by other students in Washoe County settled for $4 million. A more recent case filed in February about the repeated physical abuse of a toddler by an educator is ongoing. 

These cases only represent a small fraction of the abuse happening to disabled children in schools. The majority of these cases go unreported, providing no justice for Nevada’s disabled youth and their parents.

Senate Bill 158 requires each school district to install surveillance cameras in each classroom that is used for special education classes. The cameras must also be capable of recording sound. To protect the privacy of special education students and teachers, a consent form outlining all aspects of the use of video cameras must be signed. Following written consent, a written notice is to be provided in every entrance to a classroom that is required to be recorded. 

According to the bill, the video cameras are to only be used during regular school hours. The principal is also required to provide extensive training to any employee that will have access to the recordings. To protect the confidentiality of these recordings, they are only to be accessed in cases of legal proceedings, criminal proceedings, in response to a subpoena, or to check the proper function of the cameras. 

Schools are also required to hold the recordings retrieved for at least 45 days unless otherwise told by proper authorities. The installation of these cameras would begin on July 1, 2024, and would need to be installed no later than June 30, 2026.

Senate Bill 158 is significantly important to protect special needs children who are nonverbal and are not able to defend themselves in circumstances where they can be mistreated. It is important to pass this bill as it would bring protection and peace not only to children who are nonverbal but also peace and comfort to the families that have to worry about how their children are being treated when they are not around. 

While this bill focuses on special needs children and their parents, anyone who supports this bill in Nevada can contact their state legislators and give them input on it – especially important for parents who have had real incidents happen, such as child abuse of their nonverbal children. They can also participate in advocacy campaigns that support the bill and show that this bill can be a voice for nonverbal special needs students.

Another step that can be taken is to provide public testimony on the legislation for those parents who have experienced child abuse in their nonverbal special needs children. This would provide awareness to other parents who have children with special needs or those who are scared to speak about their situation because they are not sure where to start or if anybody would believe that such a horrific thing can happen to their children while attending school. They can also call or email their representatives and tell them why this bill is important.

Katherine Villaseñor, Marta Juarez, Emma Jonkey are students at UNR studying Political Science who are interested in topics surrounding child welfare and protection.

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