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Parents’ plea leads lawmakers to action to protect students with special needs

Published: Jan. 21, 2022 at 12:38 PM EST
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) - The Senate Education Committee advanced a bill Thursday to strengthen a West Virginia state law pertaining to cameras in special education classrooms.

But it was the story of Trenton Bowden and the abuse he endured in a special education classroom that is being credited with helping bring about change.

“Slaps across the face. Slamming heads on desk. Throwing children on the floor by the hair of their head. Forcing a child to eat lunch in the bathroom floor,” Beth Bowden told lawmakers in recalling the abuse her child and others endured at a school in Kanawha County.

Her story brought a visible reaction from lawmakers. She credits a law passed in 2019 with helping to reveal the abuse but said more needs to be done.

“What we now know is that these cameras are not stopping the abuse,” she told lawmakers. “The abuse is happening. Students are vulnerable, and they are being abused and they cannot speak for themselves.”

Bowden said regular monitoring is the solution.

Moments later, her call to action was received.

Sympathetic lawmakers, without opposition, amended Senate Bill 261.

If passed, it would include a requirement that officials monitor the in-class video for at least 15 minutes, at least once every 90 days.

“Just a little bit of review from a school administrator or a county designee every once in a while, would maybe, hopefully, help prevent something like this from happening,” said Sen. Amy Grady, R-Mason.

Senators also passed two amendments aimed at preserving the video for up to a year.

Bowden’s husband, Craig, described strengthening the law as crucial. He contrasted the developmentally-delayed students with the teachers accused of abuse.

“These people are very intelligent people, and this abuse happens over a long period of time, and that makes it even more traumatic to the children.”

The bill now moves to the Senate floor for further consideration.

The suspect in the Bowdens’ case, Nancy Boggs, faces 23 counts of battery and one count of verbal abuse of a non-communicative child.

Charleston Police arrested Boggs in November. Her case is still pending.

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