Decision to arrest mom over recording devices at school was 'heavy-handed,' legal expert says
LIVINGSTON PARISH - Less than 24 hours after a mother in Livingston Parish was arrested, accused of placing recording devices on her special needs' daughter's wheelchair, a legal expert said the effort by the school system and the sheriff's office to arrest her was "heavy-handed."
Amanda Carter's husband Jesse said his wife sent recording devices on her daughter's wheelchair after 17-year old Gracie Carter began coming home with bruises. On Tuesday, Carter was booked with 20 counts of interception and disclosure of wire. That is essentially wiretapping.
Some of the recordings that were captured raise serious questions about what was going on inside the child's classroom.
"I see at best a technical legal violation, but it would be just wrong for the state to come after her," tenured LSU law professor Ken Levy said.
Carter's husband, Jesse Carter, said the audio on the recordings captured more than just what happened in the classroom, after Gracie's wheelchair was taken away and placed in a locked office. That conversation was captured on audio, and adults say they were instructed by a Ms. Jones to do it.
Carter said they believe the Ms. Jones the adults were referring to is Live Oak High School's principal, Beth Jones.
"They aren't worried about Gracie," Jesse Carter said. "What they are worried about is all of this corruption caught in the process."
"It seems real heavy-handed for the state to come after this mother," Levy said. "The purpose of this statute was not this. People often record conversations to protect themselves. That's why we are a one-party consent state. You speak at your own risk. That's the idea."
WBRZ asked the Livingston Parish School System why it would take away Gracie's wheelchair.
A spokeswoman said, "The student participates in ambulatory activities during the day as part of her IEP (individual education plan), including classroom interaction, physical education and physical therapy exercises. On these occasions, the wheelchair is removed from the classroom to allow for additional space. It is placed in a safe, unoccupied secure space. At times when the student must travel distances, for example, to and from the bus, the student is returned to the wheelchair for those activities."
An hour after Livingston schools released that statement, a spokesperson sent a follow-up response saying it broke the law by sharing that information and that it should have never been sent.
"Livingston Parish Public Schools is prohibited by legal statute from identifying any student with disabilities, in accordance with HIPA regulations, nor can the district comment on the individual education plan (IEP) for students with disabilities, including information about devices that may or may not be part of that student’s IEP," a school spokesperson said. "Thus, Livingston Parish Public Schools cannot respond to your request for a public statement."
Carter said the school's statement is not true, and Gracie stays in one classroom from the moment she arrives at school until she is dismissed.
"Amanda doesn't deserve it," Carter said. "She's doing this to protect her child. That's all this is."
Carter is scheduled to be arraigned on the felony charges in January.
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