BATON ROUGE, La. — The mother of a Livingston Parish public schools student accused of making secret recordings on her daughter’s high school campus took a plea deal late last month and was sentenced to probation.

Amanda Carter, 39, was arrested in November on 20 counts of felony interception and disclosure of wire, electronic or oral communication — though she was only formally charged with two counts.

On June 21, Carter pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor illegal wiretapping and was sentenced to serve two years of probation and pay around $300 in fines, according to the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office. She also was banned from sending recording devices to any Livingston Parish school facilities.

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In a federal lawsuit filed in February against the Livingston Parish School Board, Carter says she attached recording devices to her daughter’s wheelchair because she had concerns about her safety. Carter’s daughter has special needs and is nonverbal, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit described Carter’s purported findings from the recordings: Her daughter failed to receive academic services for a long period of time, staff made rude comments while changing her diaper and she was subject to daily body searches as staff sought evidence to report the Carter family to the Department of Children and Family Services.

Those recordings led to Carter’s arrest.

Prosecutors said that, last October, Carter uploaded an audio recording of a discussion between coaches at her child’s school to YouTube and Facebook. When the recording was made, her daughter’s wheelchair containing the device was in the coach’s office while her child wasn’t using the chair.

Although Carter told authorities she sent the recording devices to school to protect her child, the uploaded audio did not involve her daughter, prosecutors said.

Several weeks later, the recording device was confiscated, prosecutors said, and Carter sought to get it back by filing a complaint with the Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office and playing another recording. Carter also had already received a cease-and-desist letter from the parish school board asking her to stop sending the devices to the school.

Joseph Long, Carter’s attorney, said that the plea deal was “about as light a penalty as you could ever ask for.”

“(Carter) was satisfied with the plea offer and that’s why she accepted it,” he said. “In a perfect world, she would go fight at trial, but that costs a lot of money. She’s looking for closure so she can take care of her family.”

Carter also agreed not to bring any more listening devices into her daughter’s school, Long said. Originally, Carter had asked that the school put cameras in the special needs classrooms to no avail. Now, the school board has placed cameras in the classroom, which Long said would provide a visual record if anything happened to her daughter.

Carter’s push for the cameras is part of a larger debate across the state about how to use recordings to help parents safeguard children who can’t speak for themselves, while still respecting the privacy rights of teachers, aides and other students.

A new law, which became effective last summer, requires school districts to develop policies and procedures for placing cameras in special education classrooms upon request — and to install those cameras if the money is available to do so. Other legislation last year provided state funding for such an initiative.

“After we had our preliminary examination, I think both sides agreed it was best to get a resolution,” Long said. “Prosecuting a mother of six who was just trying to protect her daughter serves no purpose.”

© 2023 The Advocate
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