Big Brother has arrived in Biloxi, Miss., where a digital camera in every classroom records students’ and teachers’ every move, the New York Times says. Fearful of violence, educators across the country are installing ceiling-mounted cameras in hallways, libraries, and cafeterias, the Times reports. It says that no school district has gone so far as Biloxi, which has enough revenue from casinos to place cameras in every classroom.
Principals have used “instant replays” so far only in routine cases like checking on the disappearance of a child’s ice cream money or catching students sleeping in class. “It’s like truth serum,” said one principal. Most of the time, “all we have to do is ask children if they want us to go back and look at the camera, and they fess up.”
The school system says the cameras have helped improved discipline and raised test scores. Critics complain. “Putting cameras on children trains them to believe that being watched every minute of the day is O.K., that Big Brother is O.K.,” said Steve Lilienthal of the conservative Free Congress Foundation in Washington, D.C. “They should be teaching them to behave not because a camera is on them, but because it’s the right thing to do.”
About 950 new public schools opened across the U.S. last year; architects estimate that three-quarters were equipped with surveillance cameras. The Times says that in the last month, schools in or near San Diego; Syracuse; West Milford, N.J.; Rockbridge County, Va.; and Owings Mills, Md., have announced the installation of surveillance systems.