Should Schools Have Surveillance Devices in the Hallways and/or Classrooms?

February 20, 2018
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During a girls’ basketball game in 2003, the visiting team members found a camera in the school’s locker room, which took images of the members in their undergarments while they were changing. The school administrators put the camera in there to monitor their own students, but in the process, innocent people were caught in the crossfire. Depending on the owner, cameras can be used for ill intentions or for the protection of others. Schools should not have surveillance in hallways because students will feel criminalized, education will be negatively impacted, and a culture of racism will be spread.

Students will feel they are being viewed as criminals when they are under constant surveillance. According to Pedro Noguera, a distinguished professor at UCLA’s graduate school, schools should be safe places where students can learn freely and bringing police onto school grounds and placing youth under surveillance turns schools into prison-like institutions (Anderson). Constant surveillance can often lead to severe consequences which make students feel uneasy. For example, “ a scuffle between two kids in a hallway, which once would have been solved with detention or suspension, could now been seen as criminal activity,” (Rapp). In addition, students won’t do as well in school if they are under constant surveillance.

If cameras are placed in school hallways, education will be negatively impacted. According to When School Feels Like Prison, “relates to kids receiving the education they need … when we do, the impact of learning, the impact on the way kids feel about being there, and the likelihood [students] will be subject to very punitive forms of discipline goes way up,” explains how there is a direct relationship between surveillance and students’ grades and behavior. Students are most likely to be nervous and be constantly thinking about their actions instead of studying. Another example, “cautioned that the long-term impact can be seen in student motivation and engagement,” (Anderson) describes the expected decrease in student participation as they begin to feel restricted about behaving normally.

In certain areas, the amount of surveillance and security is biased towards specific races/ethnicities. According to Jason P. Nance, an associate professor of law at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, “I still found that the concentration of students of color was a predictor of whether or not schools decided to rely on more intense [security] measures …. Referring to black, Hispanic, Asian, and Native American children,” (Anderson). As the portion of students of color in school increased, so did the percentage that schools would rely on intense surveillance. This has created an environment where students of color have accepted this reality. For example, “Foster works with black and Latino youth who go to school in the Bronx and Brooklyn and says strict surveillance creates an environment where young people “understand the school system sees them always as a potential problem or threat,” (Anderson). This should never come to this.

However, the opposing side believes schools should have surveillance in hallways because it deters potential crimes and threats. For example, “once installed in schools, though, surveillance cameras are used not only for security from outside invaders, but also for monitoring inside threats and student behavior,” (Morones). Cameras in schools have also seen good results. According to Privacy vs. Security, “there are 30 high schools in Oakland County… They’ve seen thefts go down. They’ve been able to solve instances of vandalism on occasion, and there have been students altercations where they’ve been helpful. They also serve as a deterrent, so you never know how many things might have happened if you hadn’t had them.” On the other hand, if cameras are installed in hallways, how do administrators determine who to question after a crime? Shelli Weisberg, the legislative director of American Civil Liberties asked a school principal the same question and he said they already know who the trouble-makers are (Rapp). Then why are cameras necessary in schools?

There should be no surveillance in hallways because students will feel criminalized, education will be negatively impacted, and a culture of racism will be spread. In the end, there can be a balance to security and privacy. Schools can spend the money allotted for surveillance on extra guidance counselors or train the community to support the growth of children. Another suggestion would be to talk to the public one-on-one and address their concerns about safety. Overall, whether or not cameras are installed, the entire conflict is about keeping students safe and making sure they do well in class and in life.

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