Is It Illegal to Have Cameras in Classrooms?
It is fair to say that school safety is a top priority for school administrators and parents alike. In an age of increasing school shootings, cyber bullying, and self-harm events, school officials and parents have a lot to be worried about when it comes to the well being of students.
Security cameras in public schools have been around for a long time. It became a common practice in the mid-1990’s when police departments began installing them in public places like housing projects, school campuses, and public parks. These first generation CCTV surveillance systems were meant to deter crime and provide physical evidence in meaningful events.
Today’s video cameras in schools still fulfill these purposes, but their applications now go far beyond being a physical deterrent to would-be vandals and criminals. Most agree that there are a plethora of benefits to be seen from school security cameras in common areas like hallways, cafeterias, and parking lots. But the debate heats up when cameras in classrooms are considered, which always leads to the question:
Is it illegal to have cameras in classrooms?
There is an idea that installing security cameras in classrooms crosses a legal line, where surveillance in a more intimate learning setting could violate the privacy of both students and school teachers. In truth, though it varies state by state, courts have ruled that video cameras are permissible in common areas of the school, such as hallways, classrooms and libraries, where privacy is not reasonably expected, so long as students and teachers are aware they are being recorded. However, electronic surveillance has been deemed improper in areas of the school where privacy can be reasonably expected, such as private offices, bathrooms and locker rooms.
Classroom surveillance has many benefits. But school districts must be very careful in how surveillance policies are implemented to be sure that they are operating within the scope of legality. Awareness and consent are two huge factors.
According to the Alliance of Schools for Cooperative Insurance Programs, recommendations for installing school surveillance cameras are as follows:
All Districts should establish a formal Board Policy regarding the use of recording and surveillance devices on district property to ensure the health, welfare and safety of all staff, students and visitors to District property, and to safeguard district facilities and equipment.
District administrators and staff should be aware of privacy limitations regarding the use of such equipment and seek the advice of counsel whenever questions arise.
The District should post surveillance signage at all campus and facility entrances disclosing the use of surveillance equipment on the premises.
The District should also notify staff and students through newsletters and staff handbooks of the on premises surveillance program.
Once an event takes place or a request has been made for a recording, take steps to immediately preserve the recording and isolate it from any routine deletion process until a disclosure determination is made and be sure to keep a disclosure copy for future reference.
Given that these recommendations are followed carefully, a successful classroom surveillance program can improve the wellbeing and safety of students and teachers alike.
SUPPORTING HEALTHY STUDENT BEHAVIORS
Putting cameras in classrooms allows students and teachers the opportunity to review video footage and have conversations about appropriate behavior and that which needs to improve or change. This can be an extremely valuable asset for deeper counseling issues that many kids in elementary school and high school tend to go through. Both of these age groups also experience bullying of some type, and some schools report a positive effect on reducing bullying incidents in schools where security cameras are installed.
IMPROVING TEACHER INSTRUCTION
Evaluating teachers’ teaching practices via video recordings is another way cameras in classrooms can improve the wellbeing of students. Teachers can watch recordings of their lessons and identify areas of strength and weakness in their practice, indirectly benefiting their students as the teachers’ lessons and stylings improve. A strong case for cameras in classrooms where this is concerned would be for special education courses, where a particular style of teaching is required for a safe and healthy learning environment.
PROTECTING STUDENTS AND TEACHERS
Due to low supervision, there is a high risk of incident before and after school hours. Whether it be bullying, abuse, or something more sinister, it’s important to be able to gain evidence of what “actually” happened, so parents don’t have to rely solely on their kids’ reports. Traumatized children tend to be unable to communicate clearly if they’ve been mistreated, or may be scared to “snitch” on a peer for hurting them. Video cameras in classrooms add a layer of protection for students AND teachers, so the truth is clear cut and the incident can be dealt with appropriately.
2020 saw an unprecedented school year with COVID-19 disrupting the typical classroom setting. But now that vaccinations are heavily underway and students are returning back to in-person learning, schools must prepare for an entirely new influx of rules meant to keep students and teachers safe from potentially spreading the virus. Herein lies a new application for school security cameras.
Verkada security cameras offer a multitude of advanced functions and AI analytics that can assist with guidelines set by the CDC for in-school learning: maintaining 6 feet apart out of class and 3 feet apart in class, keeping masks on at all times except eating and drinking, and avoiding gathering together in large groups whenever possible.
Motion Plotting: Track students’ movements across campus with real-time heatmaps and receive automatic alerts when a certain number of people have gathered together in specific areas of campus that violate grouping guidelines.
Facial Detection: Even when students are wearing masks, Verkada’s advanced facial detection software has a high accuracy rating for identifying students, so if an incident occurs and someone needs to be identified, the mask rule will not impede on an investigation.
Secure Remote Access: Access camera feeds from any device to be able to monitor school operations easily. If an admin is unwell and self-quarantining at home, school camera feeds can still be accessed and monitored to make sure students are following rules and being safe.
Although the opinion about cameras in classrooms remains somewhat divided, there can be a lot of beneficial outcomes if they are implemented correctly and with good intention.Updated: Apr 15