FAQ :: What is going on with school surveillance?

Schools have installed CCTV cameras (Closed-circuit television) and microphones in classrooms to watch and listen to pupils as young as four. The Big Brother-style surveillance is being marketed as a way to identify pupils disrupting lessons. Classwatch, the firm behind the system, says its devices can be set up to record everything that goes on in a classroom 24 hours a day, and be used to compile evidence of wrongdoing. [1]

Student’s food choices are monitored

A new technology allows parents in 29 states to monitor what their children are eating at school. Ben Hooks, CEO of Education Management Systems Inc. (EMS), a K-12 administrative software company headquartered in Wilmington, N.C., said that about half of North Carolina’s schools use the monitoring system. Other states with schools using the system include Pennsylvania, California and Virginia.

For a mere $10 fee, Moore County Schools in North Carolina lets parents access their child’s food choices and expenses. The program allows parents to view their child’s 45-day purchase history. It is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week on the Web site–www.lunchprepay.com. The 22 cafeterias of the Moore County Schools are linked on one server, where all transactions are recorded, monitored and available for viewing once parents register in the system.

The program was created to fight childhood obesity. According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, over the past three decades, child obesity has more than doubled for preschool children from 2 to 5 years old and adolescents from 12 to 19 years old. For children ages 6 to 11, obesity has more than tripled. [2]

Cafeteria spy cams

School officials in Texas are hoping surveillance cameras in the cafeteria will help them fight childhood obesity. High tech cameras have been installed in lunch rooms in San Antonio to capture what kids are eating, and what food is being left behind.

Digital imaging analysis of the snapshots will then calculate how many calories each student consumed. The two million dollar project, which is funded by the Department of Agriculture, is the first of its kind in America.

Parents will have to sign a permission slip before their child is photographed. Researchers hope parents will change eating habits at home once they see what their kids are choosing in school. [3]

This is a good idea, but Big Brother will morph this into a school-wide surveillance program. Eventually all public schools in America will have spy cameras in every cafeteria, office, classroom, hallway and playground. Big Brother will become omnipresent at school, home, the office, factory, retail store, restaurant, gas station, park, ballpark and the streets.

High school spy cameras

High school teachers in Australia are calling for surveillance cameras to be installed in all high schools to help stem a rising tide of violence.

State School Teachers Union members at Morley Senior High School want the Education Department to place at least five video surveillance cameras in all district and senior high schools.

Western Australia Secondary School Executives Association president Rob Nairn said use of surveillance cameras should be considered if they were found to be effective in deterring antisocial behavior. “I think we should use the technology where appropriate,” he said. “You certainly wouldn’t have them in classrooms. That’s overkill.”

The Education Department said it had no plans to install cameras in every school. Security head John Marapodi said that only 57 schools had closed-circuit television cameras. [4]

United Kingdom school spy cameras

Hundreds of primary and secondary schools across England intend to install CCTV cameras in classrooms over the next five years to root out bad teachers and check up on naughty pupils. The decision was made after a test had been conducted in the Stockwell Park high school located in a deprived south London neighborhood. Two cameras were placed in each of its 30 classrooms and another 40 in its canteen, corridors and playgrounds. Classwatch was the company that supplied the cameras.

Classwatch says hundreds of schools have expressed an interest in installing cameras in classrooms over the next five years. Its managing director, Angus Drever, says 94 schools in the UK already use its high-definition cameras in their classrooms at a cost of £1,345 a year for the lease of two cameras in a classroom, including maintenance.

“The children are very happy here because they know they are on a school site where they are safe,” said Stockwell Park’s deputy head-teacher, Mike Rush. “They are in a position where they are not going to be robbed and harassed and so on. The parents are very happy with it. We’ve had no complaints from the teachers … they were the ones who suggested the cameras as a solution to people coming into the building, and disputes and problems with theft.”

Head-teachers labeled the surveillance networks in classrooms “Big Brotherish” and the expenditure of tens of thousands of pounds on the cameras “inappropriate.” [5]

It will only be a matter of time before Big Brother mandates that all public schools have surveillance cameras installed.

Surveillance cameras in Australian schools

Parents are lobbying to install closed-circuit television on school grounds in Australia, as concern mounts about bullying and harassment between students, the Advertiser reported.

They believe the CCTV cameras, which would not cover classrooms or change rooms, do not breach privacy regulations; but the South Australian Education Department and teachers say there are better ways to control student misbehavior.

“Parents are conscious of privacy concerns–nobody wants to create a Big Brother environment in public schools,” said SA Association of State School Organisations director David Knuckey. “However, with the prevalence of bullying and the devastating effects it can have on children, parents are going to give serious consideration to any idea that may help the school deal with these behavior-related problems.”

In 2010 Western Australian teachers called for surveillance cameras to be installed across the state, to protect them from violent outbursts from students and parents. The WA State School Teachers Union put forward a motion to have at least five video surveillance cameras installed in all schools. [6]

[1] Lewis, Jason. “Big Brother CCTV to spy on pupils aged four – complete with CPS evidence kit.” Daily Mail. 12.28.2008.
[2] Maeser, Nadine.”New Web Site Monitors Kids’ Food Choices in School Cafeteria.” 8.15.2009.
[3] “Cameras videotape the eating habits of school children.” 5.12.2011.
[4] Hiatt, Bethany. “Push for cameras to stop bullies.” Australian News. 5.28.2010.
[5] Shepherd, Jessica. “Someone to watch over you.” The Guardian. 8.04.2009.
[6]Keller, Candace. “Parents want CCTV cameras in playgrounds.” The Advertiser. 11.09.2010.