Security cameras mounted inside local schools could give authorities a means to both prevent and react to crimes against people and property on school district grounds.  While many administrators support exterior surveillance, the school board has postponed making a decision on interior cameras citing privacy and civil liberties concerns.

Photo by Brian Ray

Security cameras mounted inside local schools could give authorities a means to both prevent and react to crimes against people and property on school district grounds. While many administrators support exterior surveillance, the school board has postponed making a decision on interior cameras citing privacy and civil liberties concerns.

School Board ponders video cameras in district schools

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School security

Interior and exterior security cameras are two options the Steamboat Springs School District has for beefing up security.

Interior and exterior security cameras are two options the Steamboat Springs School District has for beefing up security.

— A school official is questioning a plan to install security cameras in Steamboat schools, citing authoritarian measures in George Orwell's classic novel "1984."

"For something like cameras, even with kids in the elementary schools to be monitored by cameras, I don't want to be part of the ... acceptance of no right to privacy," said Steamboat Springs School Board member John DeVincentis, a former principal at Strawberry Park Elementary School. "That is one of our Constitutional rights - a right to privacy."

Such cameras would be part of a $533,000 federal grant to help boost security measures at all four schools in the Steamboat Springs School District. The "Secure Our Schools" grant will be administered through the city of Steamboat Springs.

New security equipment could include external school surveillance cameras, which record activity outside of school buildings; electronic key card access systems; hand-held and mobile radios; and bi-directional radio amplifiers to improve communications.

To help match the grant, district officials have set aside $250,000 from the $29.5 million bond issue to build a new Soda Creek Elementary School and expand Strawberry Park, passed by voters in November 2006. The district also plans to ask the Education Fund Board, which manages the city's half-cent sales tax for education, for $250,000 throughout a two-year period.

The School Board unanimously voted Monday to authorize interim Superintendent Sandra Smyser to direct district staff to acquire the 800 MHz radios, which will cost the district $145,284.

But board members did not authorize the purchase of additional security equipment - including "internal" cameras that would be placed inside schools - until community support is weighed and more information is presented.

Incidences common

Rick Denney, the district's director of facilities, presented the grant to the School Board on Monday with Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae and Public Safety Director J.D. Hays.

"If we had adequate supervision and lots of hall monitors then maybe we wouldn't need as many cameras, but manpower is expensive," said Denney, adding that Steamboat schools are frequently vandalized.

According to data submitted to the School Board by the Steamboat Springs Police Department, 158 criminal incidents were reported on school property to police from Sept. 2005 to Aug. 2007. Schools reported 40 cases of stolen property, six cases of underage drinking, five assaults, five reports of vandalism and four incidents of disorderly conduct. Officers also were called to schools five times for reports of student possession or sale of drugs.

Denney said numerous incidents are not reported to police.

Modern times

Denney noted that being under video surveillance is just another aspect of living in the technology age.

"The cameras do take away some of the perceptions of your rights," he said. "But wherever you go in today's society, (cameras) are present. And whether you know it or not, that information is being recorded."

Board member Laura Anderson replied, "Places like 7-Eleven, you have a choice to go into : kids don't have a choice to go into the school."

Rae described the grant as "not reactive, but preventative."

Denney said district officials were alerted to the need after a 2006 security audit showed a lack of safety and crime prevention measures in Steamboat schools.

The School Board also read a statement from Steamboat Springs High School Principal Mike Knezevich, who said he supports external cameras and expenditures on radio equipment, but not internal cameras.

"I believe, as do the overwhelming majority of staff and students, that cameras inside of the building would radically change the culture of our building," he said. "We work so hard and have created an atmosphere of trust among our students and an environment where they feel comfortable and welcome in the high school."

The police department has provided a school resource officer in the high school since 1997.

Call for protocol

DeVincentis said he supports external surveillance of the schools and would accept internal monitoring if it was for safety, not for discipline.

"But I don't see them creating any safety," he said. "Anything could happen, and all you can do is go back and look at the camera. Is anyone safer because of that? No."

School Board member Lisa Brown said more discussion should occur before a decision is made about internal cameras.

"We can't just put cameras in our schools, even if it's free, without a plan and a protocol on what these things would be used for," she said.

DeVincentis said he will listen to community input, but his resolve against policing students with cameras is strong.

"If it comes down to a vote, I would still vote my feelings," he said. "But I accept the right of whatever the people in this community want, but I advise against it."

- To reach Mike McCollum, call 871-4208

or e-mail mmccollum@steamboatpilot.com

Comments

summerbird 6 years, 10 months ago

These are public schools paid for by public funds. Parents should expect and students have a right to a good education in a setting that fosters discipline and attention to the teacher and the subject being taught.

In the halls, lunchroom and other non classroom school spaces (I am not including bathroom stalls!) theft, vandalism or bullying will be documented.

In the classroom the people that should fear video recordings are teachers with poor teaching skills, bullies and the kids snoozing through their classes.

One person's invasion of privacy is another person's means of documentation.

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freshair 6 years, 10 months ago

People who are against video surveillance in schools:

1)Incompetent teachers

2) Students engaging in abusive or destructive behavior

3) And of course that common life form opposed to any and all measures to ensure Public Safety, Civilus Libertarius Freakus.

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freshair 6 years, 10 months ago

Re DeVicentis---It's not surprising that DeVicentis, given the revelation of his machinations against various School Board officials, would be against the recording of any evidence relating to abuse or unprofessional behavior.

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Scott Wedel 6 years, 10 months ago

If the cameras are continuously monitored so that nothing happens without being seen by school administration then that invades privacy. Even more invasive is technology that allows the system to recognize and track people.

If the cameras are used to record and are examined only if there is an incident to be investigated and recordings are routinely destroyed after 30 days then there is no invasion of privacy.

A simple policy stating that video surveillance will be viewed only in the presence of a police officer investigating a reported incident would protect the students' and staff's privacy.

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 10 months ago

pt22, you and I see this alike. We should not be so passive about introducing camera surveilence of our children. Who decides what is right and wrong? You can do what ever you want but always be aware that you are on camera. Who has access to the camera tapes? Who keeps them in secure places?

We won't be raising societal sheep we will be raising lambs for the slaughter.

If we can't control our schools without cameras, then we need to decide what WE are doing WRONG. Technology is not a panacea for societal woes. It's just an easy way to put fear into everyone's hearts rather than knowledge of what goodness brings.

"You better not do anything because we have you on camera," rather than, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." "You will answer to God in the after life," to "You will answer to the camera and the demagogues watching them."

I hope our school board gets this one right.

dimwitiguess.

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Dave Ege 6 years, 10 months ago

Freshair, You are right on on this one! PT and Dimwit are probably just like the childless "professionals" who tell us how to raise our kids and how we parents should "parent". They also probably sit at home and play violent video games, with no true social value and that desensitize kids as to the real consequenses of violence.

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Oscar 6 years, 10 months ago

Those that are overly concerned about giving up their privacy in public places should stay home where then can do anything they want without being seen. But they need to understand that in today's world when they leave the privacy of their home, then the public safety is more important than their individual privacy. Surely cameras in the schools may not stop mass killings, but they could go a long way to identifying bullies and contraban dealings before they lead to something more serious.

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Troutscout 6 years, 10 months ago

Summerbird,

I think you are correct. When students at a Texas university insist on carrying guns to class to protect themselves, a student in Norway is shooting seven classmates because he was bullied, and a principal in Wisconsin is killed by a student who said he was bullied and the school did nothing to stop the bullying, it's time for use to take a proactive approach. Ignoring Columbine-like situations and hoping they won't come to Steamboat schools would be nice if we could guarantee that nothing like these will occur. The Wisconsin principal may be alive today if his school had cameras to document the bullies. There is nothing private about PUBLIC school hallways, playgrounds, and lunchrooms. There are cameras in many public places, traffic cams, weather cams, parking lot cameras. I feel no lose of privacy when I'm in view of these cameras. In fact I feel they may be a deterrent to someone wanting to commit a crime. They may think twice about mugging someone if they know they will be caught on camera. Public storage facilities tout that their units are protected by security cameras. In fact Denver has just installed a bunch of graffiti cameras, which alert police when vandals are doing their thing.

Having safe schools is a high priority with all of us. When police officers were first placed in schools this was seen as a lose of freedom. There was big brother in person! When in fact, it guaranteed our freedom to be safe in school. Children getting beat up in school is not unheard of. Children being reluctant and refusing to name their bullies is a problem for people in authority. As a result the principal has to make his best guess as to who started things. Children can be skilled liars and principals have no way of knowing who is telling the truth. Authorities outside of school use any and all tools within their power to protect us from criminals. The same should be true for protection within schools. We would be negligent if we didn't take all the precautions we can to protect our vulnerable students and teachers. We have cameras on school buses to protect our children and should have the same within our schools. Spotting intruders, who have not cleared through the school office, on hallway cameras may save the life of a child. I encourage Dr. D to protect the safety of our children while in school. Now if he wanted to put a camera in my private home that would be a totally different matter. That would be invasion of privacy.

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id04sp 6 years, 10 months ago

Video surveillance is certainly a reasonable condition to accept in return for a free public education.

If for no other reason, bullying out of sight of teachers and school officials justifies the use of this system. Violence against kids is assault, plain and simple, and it happens all the time in schools. It should be stopped, and this is a great way to help stop it.

In Orwell's "1984" it was the ORGASM that the government was trying to stamp out. That's right, the ORGASM! The premise was that by removing the orgasm from society, romantic bonds would not overshadow allegience to the government.

"1984" has been banned from many high school and middle school libraries because of this content. Lots of people who talk about it have never read it because of this situation.

Video surveillance to detect anti-social behavior in schools (and teacher/staff incompetence and negligence as well) is a great idea.

Every casino in Las Vegas has cameras all over the place to protect the casino AND the customers. Everybody knows it. The places stay full of people at all hours. Nobody complains.

Shouldn't our schools be as safe as a casino?

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corduroy 6 years, 10 months ago

after visiting NYC and dealing with one undercover cop after another, its a terrible thing to always think "I'm being watched, and I honestly don't think I deserve to have my privacy violated that way" If anything, put cameras up in schools and I'll bet you see kids messing with em. They don't like being spied on as much as you or I would.. that's what this is: SPYING

Or maybe they aren't tackling hall monitors, etc very well. At my school, each teacher had to take a turn at helping with monitoring the halls between classes.

If they are worried about drug deals, you may want to put cameras in the bathrooms, you could even catch them smoking! Or just taking a crap..

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fish 6 years, 10 months ago

In light of the numerous school shootings have you ever thought that this is not a way to spy on the kids, but to try to keep them safe. I, as a parent and grandparent, whose thought many times, but by the grace of God that could be any of the schools in Routt County, support any effort to ensure our childrens safety. Now lets see them put in metal detectors.

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corduroy 6 years, 10 months ago

if all we are worried about is school shootings, then maybe the PARENTS are the ones who need the cameras on them. If you kid can't figure out that bringing a weapon to school is wrong, or has the access to such a weapon to do so, is that the child's fault or the parent for not instructing them about the dangers of guns, or how to deal with being picked on by others.

Why do parents today expect everyone else to raise and protect their children? That's your job, not the taxpayers

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id04sp 6 years, 10 months ago

Cordy,

We are not afraid of the kids who are actually being raised by their parents. We're afraid of the ones NOT being raised by the pot-heads, alkies, doperes, etc., who allow the kids to play video games and perform satanic rituals with the neighbor's cat. The abusive parents give it a nice spin too; you know, all that rage and nowhere to go with it, so they take it out on the kids and the spouse, and the kids take it to school. It's like a whole set of maniacs we can do nothing about.

I'd be happy to protect my own kids. Just don't lock me up for doing away with the bad ones.

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fmrstudentlxa 6 years, 10 months ago

On one hand I completely agree with the need for protecting our basic constitutional rights. I think that we should be allowed to not have to worry about looking over our shoulders. The sad truth is that we do. Having gone to school in Steamboat during the high school's renovation in 98/99 it was interesting to find that one of the designs look at and incorporated into the development was Columbine. Following that terrible event the Lockdown procedure was put in place and everyone was all for it because the horrific events were fresh in their minds. The hard cold truth of the matter is that we live in a society where we have given up ground on our constitutional rights to ensure a safe and secure future for our children. While I believe that there is a need for basic privacy especially in the bathrooms I am not opposed to increased security inside and out at the school. I think it is a great step for the administration and even higher than that with state supported groups to be proactive on this. I worked at another school as an aide, however there are gang issues and it became my job as well to monitor student activity. I have been threatened by students, I have seen weapons and broken up fights. Is it going to take a violent act before our small community wakes up and realizes that something needs to be done first to ensure the safety later?

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fish 6 years, 10 months ago

I am not even necessarily concerned about other students I am concerned about wakos like the guy's who go into schools and hold hostages. I am sure that there will always be crazies out there that will slip past, but only an idiot would think that this is a matter of parental resposibility and not a public safety issue. Based on your line of thought we can do away with law enforcement all together if parents just do their jobs right.

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bwatts 6 years, 10 months ago

what a ridiculous idea! this is steamboat you fools! we are not living in the ghetto, we are not living in a violence stricken town so untill we are a camera recording teenagers being teenagers should be against the law or something.

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fmrstudentlxa 6 years, 10 months ago

bwatts

It isnt about demographics, its about safety pure and simple. Parental responsibility aside(that isnt for me to say anything) Just because it isnt front page news doesnt mean we dont get threats. Its often not said or talked about but the staff and the proper authorities know. Columbine was in one of the nicer districts in Denver and it still happened. Better to be proactive than to not be and have the potential there. Plus the potential will always be there its just how the world is now. I dont agree with the idea but I agree with the reasoning and because of that I would accept that decision if it was made

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Troutscout 6 years, 10 months ago

Littleton is far from being a ghetto. West Salem, Wisconsin, where the principal was killed is a small rural town about the size of Steamboat. The small town just southwest of Denver, I can't remember the name, where the high school girl was killed, was not a ghetto. The farming community, where the Amish children were murdered at school, was not a ghetto.

It would be nice to know for sure that it couldn't possibly happen in Steamboat. I keep hearing news reports where people say, " This is such a nice quiet peaceful place, something like that couldn't happen here"

I have no way of knowing if cameras would have deterred or stopped any of the above murders from taking place. Nor does anyone else know that they may have acted as a deterrent. It is like the death penalty. We know that it doesn't stop all murders, but no one has any way of knowing how many it has stopped from happening in the first place.

I would rather be on the prudent side of the issue and know that I did everything possible to prevent a child from being killed. I wouldn't want to be on the side that opposed cameras if we have an incident here.

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fmrstudentlxa 6 years, 10 months ago

PT- I agree with you. Like I said I agree with the reasoning but not the action. Its not going to work the way they want it to...external cameras would be beneficial but inside I think it isnt a feasible idea. I think if they want to be preventive hire some school monitors so its not just one guy and CSO

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mud 6 years, 10 months ago

I think cameras in the parking lot are a good idea. Its good to know if adults are hanging out, or if a sherrif's deputy is molesting a 17 year old girl. To have them inside is just a feel good measure. you can bust kids leaving an exit, see who started the food fight or pulled a fire alarm....

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fish 6 years, 10 months ago

pt22 your the security expert here, how do you provide for the safety of the students. Its your ballgame you tell us what you would do to beef up security at SSHS.

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toboyle105 6 years, 10 months ago

Instead of wasting money on cameras just wrap em all in bullet proof clothing. It will have the added effect of getting a good work out humping around all that gear plus if they get into fights they can't hurt each other.

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 10 months ago

Cameras didn't help Columbine, Omaha, Virginia Tech, Finland school, etc. etc. etc.

Cameras are the public's way to record the gory details so they can show them on the news and on youtube. Will anyone notice the person coming in with a long coat and a bomb or rifle under it? You are better off having a screening at all doors - all doors and bathrooms without windows and classrooms that have no windows so that guns or bombs could be passed through.

Cameras do nothing but record. They only help after the fact in showing you how miserable "real" security is/was and the mass destruction that took place.

I know I'm just another dimwitiguess.

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mud 6 years, 10 months ago

If security is a serious problem at SSHS here's what they should do: Lock the campus down. No more open campus. Juniors and seniors must stay inside all day, all year. Install metal detectors at the few entrances where students enter. We all know there's no way in hell SSHS would take these measures. The reason is because they are not needed. Dim hit it-the only thing cameras do is let the media make superstars of killers after the fact.

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inmate2007 6 years, 10 months ago

Dim, how else can the District prove that they provided the best protection for the children? When the parent's can view their child's interactions/reactions/actions through the day, they will be assured of the child's safety. Of course one might question who else is viewing the video...............

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another_local 6 years, 10 months ago

The school is a public place and by definition all behavior taking place in the halls and common areas is public behavoir. Fundamentally, it is not possible to "spy" on public behavior as spying would imply that what was being watched was somehow private.

I have no problems with outside cameras at all. I also have no issue with cameras covering the entrances to the buildings. I think that giving the school officials a tool to observe who is hanging around and who is coming and going from the building is a good idea. I hope they do it.

After that I wonder how you draw the line. Is a camera in the common area out front or in each hall way a good idea... there I am not so sure. I can't say it really bothers me, but on the other hand I also do not have the same solid "no problem with it" feel that I have regarding outside and entrance cameras. While those areas are public as well, there are important points to consider that have been brought up by other posters.

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armchairqb 6 years, 10 months ago

ANyone who thinks camera's are for safety is sorely mistaken . Pt22 is right to a certain extent, however the real root for the camera's is to avoid future litagation. See we did everything possible to provide safety for your kid were sorry it happened now please don't sue us. As for the bullying when I was in school and complained to my dad about being bullied he said stand up for yourself, stop being a coward, and fight back.

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dimwitiguess 6 years, 10 months ago

Pt22 and others who think cameras are ridiculous and a waste of money just to give the illusion of safety are telling it like it is. Don't waste any money especially EFB money to buy a single camera.

The city police brought this proposal to the board. They are supposed to protect and serve. Put them all in the schools and take them off the important job of giving traffic tickets. They can patrol the playgrounds too and allow the aides to work with kids who need help or a challenge. There is nothing really important in this town for the police to do anyway. Do you read the blotter every day?

Give them a real job to do and let them frisk everyone entering the schools and let them patrol the halls. That should freak out any intruder wanting to lay waste to others. But who knows, maybe I'm even a bigger dimwitiguess.

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