VIEWS: 0 PAGES: 2 POSTED ON: 11/9/2012
School Video Camera Surveillance Policy 7.145 Public Comment Read the posted policy; seems fair. Will someone be reviewing the tapes daily or only when an incident is reported? I would just like to comment that as a parent of a child starting at South next year, I support the use of video cameras for surveillance purposes. Security cameras may have a valid purpose and some benefits in a school environment. However, the Board’s proposed policy does not adequately address certain issues raised by the use of comprehensive video surveillance. The matter is not as simple as passively recording 24/7, then replaying a tape after a fire alarm is pulled – there are serious legal and liability considerations. Also, the policy is misleading when it states that no one will see the tapes but the District and the police; that’s just not true. First, the District is assuming an additional level of liability by installing cameras. If the District has the ability to see everything going on in the hallways in real time, it will be argued that it then undertakes a legal duty to use that capability to monitor what’s happening and to act if a student is in danger. This is particularly the case if, as has been suggested during budget discussions, cameras will be used to replace some current student supervisory personnel. This is not a hypothetical – lawsuits have been brought alleging failure to design, install, operate and monitor video surveillance systems properly, on the basis that individuals are relying on a sense of security created by the cameras. This liability risk would be even greater if the District is on notice of a particular security issue and fails to act. These risks may be deemed acceptable after due consideration by the Board, but the Board and the public need to see some legal analysis and a full disclosure of the risks as well as the potential benefits. Second, the proposed policy takes a simplistic, and in my view legally incorrect, posture on the recordings themselves. The administrative procedure contained in the policy states that only “authorized District personnel” or law enforcement agencies may view the tapes, and that the tapes will be destroyed after 15 days unless retained as part of a District or law enforcement investigation. The policy states that the video recording “may become part of a student’s educational record”, presumably in an attempt to justify limiting access to the tapes. You will recall that the District has previously asserted that placing public records in a file that is exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act rendered all such records per se exempt from disclosure. This argument was rejected by the Illinois Supreme Court in a highly publicized case. Even if the average citizen has no interest in a videotape of a school hallway, don’t doubt for a minute that parents of and/or attorneys for any student subject to discipline, or any student who is a victim of any type of attack or injury, will subpoena the tapes. With the new amendments to the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure relating to electronic discovery, the District has a duty to preserve tapes not only when it is in litigation, but when litigation is likely. Legal counsel will need to be involved in any decision to destroy tapes. A plaintiff’s attorney for a student-victim will seek tapes to show a pattern of incidents to prove notice and negligence or deliberate indifference by the District. If the incident occurs at a middle school without surveillance, the fact that surveillance is done at Hubble may be raised to establish what is a reasonable standard of care. An attorney for a student-alleged perpetrator will seek tapes to show disparate treatment of similarly situated students and perhaps even raise a civil rights claim if patterns of discipline can be alleged to vary based on student demographics. And it goes without saying that the media will want to see tapes of any violent or sensational incident, such as the highly publicized Wheaton North food contamination incident a couple years ago. The District should not videotape anything it wouldn’t want to see on youtube. Given that the policy itself provides that surveillance will be limited to public areas of the buildings like hallways where there is no expectation of privacy, I don’t anticipate that the District succeed in claiming any type of exemption to disclosure of tapes. Thus, the policy must state that the tapes are public records and are subject to disclosure. As an overall policy matter, there are pluses and minuses to the increased use of surveillance. The City of Chicago is reported to be one of the most-watched cities in the world, yet is there a real or only an imagined benefit? Are we actually safer, or is crime merely shifted to non- surveilled locations? Do we take unnecessary risks based on a false sense of security? Red- light cameras, while promoted for “safety”, cause public resentment and different kinds of accidents. If students feel they are constantly being watched, will this really cause them to feel more secure, or rather, to feel mistrusted and alienated, with a lost sense of community? Prisons are heavily watched, yet very dangerous. It is interesting to me that within the last year, the District proposed eliminating the police liaison officers at the high schools, yet now feels cameras are needed to ensure student safety. Cameras should not be viewed as a substitute for personal interaction and accountability among students and staff.
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