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What are parents' rights to school video of an incident with their child?

I-Team: What are parents' rights to school video of an incident with their child?
I-Team: What are parents' rights to school video of an incident with their child? 04:40

DALLAS (  When Brittany Wood received a call from the principal about a video showing her 8-year-old son being assaulted by a school aide, she rushed to the school to see it.

When she got to Aikin Elementary School, the Dallas mother was told she couldn't watch the video of her own son being assaulted. She would have to wait and submit an open records request.

"I didn't understand why I couldn't see the video," Wood said. "It's my son."

Richardson Independent School District

The Richardson Independent School District said a copy of the video was available for the mother three weeks after the assault - two weeks after she submitted an open record request through the district's online portal. 

Wood, however, said it was nearly four months before she finally received a copy.

"It was heartbreaking watching it," she said after seeing the October assault for the first time in February. "It was worse than I thought."

Wood's experience with accessing video from her child's school is not unique.

Brittany Wood

Texas school districts routinely require parents to submit open records requests in writing for video of their own child, even in cases when their child is a victim of an assault.

Attorney Paul Watler, a recognized First Amendment litigator, said Texas schools are required to provide parents access to video quickly when their child is a victim of an alleged crime or abuse.  In most cases, parent should have a chance to see the video within a few days.

But, Watler said, the law does not give an exact amount of time schools have and that can open the door to delays.

"It is vague, and it does allow some flexibility and some room for interpretation. It does depend on the circumstances," explained Watler, who is on the board of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas. "The key for parents is to know their rights and to be persistent about pursuing those rights."

Schools must also consider the privacy of other students seen in the video and blur parts of the video, if needed, before sharing with parents.

As schools have added more cameras for security in recent years, there's been an increase in open records requests for video. However, the state has not provided additional funding for schools to keep up for those requests.

Attorney Paul Watler

If you are having trouble accessing video or any other records of your child from their school, you can contract the Texas Attorney General's open records complaint hotline (512- 478-OPEN) as well as the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas' free legal hotline (1-800-580-6651) for assistance.

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