Caught on Camera: Security Cameras Monitor Activity in the School’s Public Spaces

Around the school, lurking behind every corner, cameras are watching students and their every move. 

At the early start of the pandemic, the school board approved a multi-year phase-in of surveillance camera installments in schools. Years prior, high schools had a similar phase-in of cameras.  The security cameras were meant to be installed months earlier, but due to several shipping delays, the cameras were installed in January. 

“I noticed them after winter break,” 8th grader Shiloh recalled.

Principal Dr. Jim Patrick noted that, as of now, the phase-in of cameras is complete, but more could be added later.  A total of 96 security cameras have been installed across the inside and outside of the school.

One of the most beneficial uses of security cameras is that they act as deterrents.

“We’ve had a lot of incidents over time,” Dr. Patrick  mentioned, “This is just an extra layer of safety, just like in public spaces.”

Most public spaces, such as retail stores, museums, and airports, use security cameras as a measure of public safety, according to Reolink, a company that makes surveillance cameras.  Their blog entry, “Top 8 Pros and Cons of Surveillance Cameras in Public Places,” explained that no laws currently exist that prevent security cameras from monitoring public places. 

In addition, more and more people are using dashboard cams or cell phones to record events happening in the streets.

When the cameras first appeared, it didn’t make much of a stir. 

“We just didn’t hear a lot from students,” Dr. Patrick explained. But that doesn’t mean they haven’t noticed.

“I feel like it makes me suspicious,” said Shiloh, describing the unnerving feeling of seeing all of the cameras each day. “Like they’re watching my every move,” she added.

Another 8th grader, Martina C. has mixed feelings about the cameras.  She understands that the camera’s purpose is for security and protection but that being recorded throughout the school day could feel like an invasion of privacy.  

“Students should understand that it’s for their own good,” added Martina.

Administrators have made good use of the cameras since their installation, tracking down students that may otherwise have gotten away with misbehavior, but they don’t spend a lot of time monitoring them. 

“It’s hard to monitor them in real-time,” said Dr. Patrick.”There are  many cameras and only so much staff.”  

He believes they act as a deterrent, which is the best-case scenario.  Students who know they will be caught are less likely to act out in the first place.  The other benefit of security cameras in the school is that when an incident occurs, they help administrators figure out what happened. Instead of interviewing a bunch of students to piece together events, the cameras can make plain what occurred. 

In fact, Dr. Patrick doesn’t see much of a downside. 

“I know when we had time for public comment, many of our parents were very supportive of it,” Dr. Patrick informed, adding that teachers were equally supportive of this new installment of cameras.

The goal is for the school to be a more pleasant and safer place for all students.  Sure, no one wants to get caught misbehaving, but the students affected by this behavior are far better off when it is avoided in the first place.