Fast food restaurants and shopping centers for years have had better security than many schools. Yet there are still people questioning security measures, such as cameras and police officers, being placed in our schools. In most fast food restaurants, you can only enter through a limited number of open doors. When you step inside, you are usually promptly greeted and asked how you can be helped. Many of these facilities have surveillance cameras inside and out, and even at the drive-through windows. Too often, we still do not see this level of security in some of our nation’s schools . Seriously – think about it: For years we have protected hamburger better than our school children and teachers. I find it interesting not only many students, but also many adults, don’t have a problem with police, security cameras, and other protection measures for their suburban shopping mall security or at a fast food restaurant. Yet some of these same individuals believe we should have a lower standard of protection for students and teachers in schools.
Police officers, armed security guards, surveillance cameras and metal detectors are now commonplace at schools across the country. They go hand in hand with zero tolerance polices adopted by school systems in the wake of highly publicized outbreaks of violence. In a new book, Homeroom Security: School Discipline in an Age of Fear author Aaron Kupchik argues that these polices need to be reassessed to include some flexibility and more common sense. Research at four public high schools helped shaped Kupchik’s argument. He compiled more than 100 hours of interviews with students, administrators, teachers and police officers assigned to each of the schools located in the nation’s Southwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.
“We’re the federal government, and we’re here to help investigate you.”
The Education and Justice Departments are now taking on investigatory and prosecutorial roles against school districts on bullying and harassment cases. Historically their roles have centered on research, along with funding prevention and intervention programs on these issues. The U.S. Department of Education and its Office of Civil Rights reaffirmed last week it would be “vigorously” investigating local school districts on complaints against the districts related to bullying and harassment. The Department’s statement followed up on presentations made by Education Department officials at their “bullying summit” two weeks ago where they announced they would be “proactively investigating” schools on bullying complaints. Last week the Justice Department entered the fray by filing an “amicus curiae” or “friend of the court” motion in a federal discrimination lawsuit against the Indian River Central School District in New York. The case involves claims of discrimination (based on sex) by the school district in connection with harassment, physical assaults, and threats against a gay former student. The suit reportedly claims the district refused to help him and refused to allow him to form a Gay-Straight Alliance at the high school. According to the news report, the lawsuit was brought by Lambda Legal, a national organization that defends the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.
Police in Pennsylvania will soon be watching live feeds from wireless school security cameras. The Franklin Regional school District has 128 cameras in five schools. Murrysville Police will be able to watch those cameras online, plus access floor plans in an emergency. The fire department and Emergency Management Office will also have access through a secure server. The system, funded by a $100,000 grant, is expected to go live next January. Parents are concerned the live camera feeds might be used by police to watch their children without cause, or do surveillance. The story in Government Technology Magazine does not fully address legal and privacy issues, or what steps will be taken to prevent hackers from tapping into the system. But the school district is expected to create policies on who will have access to the server and when. All access will be tracked and monitored. And school officials say the system will not be linked to student records or personnel information.