More Schools Using Expensive Surveillance Cameras


Several Baltimore-area school systems are adding digital cameras to hallways and grounds that can zoom in, detect motion — and even see in the dark, the Baltimore Sun reports. “It’s just an additional layer of security,” said Richard Berzinski, acting supervisor of security in Anne Arundel, Md., which is seeking more county funds for the program in the 2005-06 budget. Anne Arundel has digital video cameras in nine schools and wants to install equipment in three more next year to help them respond to emergencies. The program isn’t cheap, costing up to $80,000 to outfit one school with 32 cameras.

“I think we’re rearing a generation of schoolchildren who will always be looking over their shoulders,” said Beth Givens of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy group. She recommends staff, parents. and students develop a privacy policy to govern how the images are used. Such a policy would define what sorts of offenses recorded on a video warrant sanction, for example, and allow the accused to have a hearing. “The school should not have the ability to make a decision or decide a sanction based solely on the contents of video images,” she said. In Anne Arundel, the digital cameras, activated by motion detectors 24 hours a day, cover selected interior and exterior public parts of the school and grounds, Berzinski said. No cameras are placed in bathrooms, locker rooms or classrooms. The cameras are not used for constant surveillance. “We’re not sitting there watching monitors,” he said.


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