What's Up With the Security Cameras at Washington Middle School?

So what's up with this story about Washington Middle School and security cameras in the cafeteria?  From the South Seattle Emerald:
(In late November) the principal of Washington Middle School said she thought so, announcing the installation of “video surveillance throughout the school.”
“We intend to identify kids who do not fulfill their clean-up responsibilities,” said Principal Susan Follmer. “Who wants to sit at a crumb-ridden table?”
In another e-mail Follmer said:

Follmer said in another e-mail that because the cameras are new, “there is no data” showing what effect they’ve had on school security, but that the cameras had “already saved us hours on investigations of unsafe behaviors.”  
I would point out that it can take time to go thru all that footage if you are investigating an incident (plus, it doesn't change that any incident would need to be fully investigated even with footage available of an incident.)
What does the district say?
Later, a spokesperson for Seattle Public Schools backtracked, saying Follmer had misspoken. “The school is not using cameras to find out who is cleaning up and who’s not,” said Luke Duecy. “Cameras inside and around schools are used for safety and security reasons.”

Duecy said school cameras are typically installed in hallways, entrances, and parking lots—though it’s not unusual to place them in cafeterias, too.
While cameras in schools are fairly common, said Shankar Narayan, Technology and Liberty Director for the ACLU of Washington, the school district should “recognize that there is a cost to surveillance to free expression that should be weighed against any benefits.”

Particularly for a captive audience like children, we should have some real concerns about whether that’s the environment that we want students to have.”
As one commenter pointed out, for the price of cameras and someone going thru the footage, it would be easier (and less costly) to hire someone to monitor the lunchrooms.  Or you could ask volunteers to come in. 

I had a reader ask me about Board policy/procedure on where cameras are placed, if video is stored and for how long and who gets to see that video.  Those are all good questions.  I see that back in 2011 this topic was on the Operations Committee list of items for discussion and I checked Board policies but I'm not sure anything specific exists.  

One thing I thought was understood is that the district makes final decisions on safety measures at schools but then again, it does appear that the rise of principals' power may have changed that as well. 


Anonymous said…
The video surveillance could create some interesting privacy issues, and it looks like--except in specific cases--the videos might be available via public record requests. Here are a couple things I found in the National Forum on Educational Statistics' report "The Privacy of Student Information: A Resource for Schools" (http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2006/2006805.pdf).

For FERPA purposes, surveillance videotapes (or other media) with information about a specific student are considered education records if they are kept and maintained by the school system. If the school’s law enforcement unit controls the cameras/videos and it
is doing the surveillance for safety reasons, the ensuing videos would be considered law enforcement, rather than education, records. As soon as school officials use them for discipline purposes, however, the tapes become education records and are subject to FERPA requirements.

When created and kept by the school or education agency, videotapes or photographs directly related to a specific student are considered part of that student’s education records and, therefore, subject to FERPA. For instance, if the tape captured an altercation, it would be included in the involved students’ education record, and the school has to obtain consent before publishing or disclosing its contents to unauthorized individuals. However, authorization would be needed only for the students actually involved in the altercation; other students in the video would be considered “set dressing” (not relevant to the incident) and not covered.

I guess if parents want to spy on their students' lunchroom and hallway behavior--or those of other students, lunchroom staff, etc.--they now have a means of doing so from the comfort of their own homes?

Dave said…
There are no episodes of "lunchroom staff" being under surveillance at any time, for any reason.

Only the sup or head of security could authorize that.
Anonymous said…
Since admin at Washington prefers not to investigate student misconduct I am happy they finally got cameras. Anything to keep suspension numbers down for students of color.
-pro cameras
Anonymous said…
@ Dave, if there are cameras in the lunchroom showing students at tables, couldn't they just as easily show lunchroom monitors, who often interact with kids? Why do you say never?

Charlie Mas said…
"lunchroom staff" means the people who work in the lunchroom serving the food. They are covered by a collective bargaining agreement that sets the rules for their working conditions.
Anonymous said…
Ok, so please consider my original comment rephrased as "staff who happen to be in the lunchroom/dining area (not kitchen)" instead of "lunchroom staff." Better? Or are there no paid staff supervising lunch?

Charlie Mas said…
HF wrote: "Ok, so please consider my original comment rephrased as "staff who happen to be in the lunchroom/dining area (not kitchen)" instead of "lunchroom staff."

Your comment, HF, wasn't the original one. Dave's was the original. Your first comment was in response to Dave's. You wrote: "@ Dave, if there are cameras in the lunchroom showing students at tables, couldn't they just as easily show lunchroom monitors, who often interact with kids? Why do you say never?"

My answer was in response to the question "Why do you say never?"

In response to your first question, "if there are cameras in the lunchroom showing students at tables, couldn't they just as easily show lunchroom monitors, who often interact with kids?" To which the answer is yes. The cameras in the lunchroom could possibly show lunchroom monitors.

There. Everything all straightened out now? The cameras could show lunchroom monitors but cannot be used to monitor lunchroom staff unless that surveillance were allowed under the collective bargaining agreement. The lunchroom monitors have no such CBA and the camera surveillance can capture their actions.
Anonymous said…
Uhh, actually, Charlie, my comment WAS the original one, as in comment #1. Dave's comment was in response to mine. (However, even if mine had not been THE original comment, my use of the adjective "my," as in "MY original comment" would have still been accurate. No need to scold me for something that was correct in either case, especially when it's beside the point, and especially when you have it wrong. Were you just trying to be critical for the sake of being critical?)

I was the one that used the words "lunchroom staff," by which I meant "staff working in the lunchroom." As you and Dave have pointed out, "lunchroom staff" is apparently a very specific term that does not apply to "staff working in the lunchroom," so I was taking your word for it and clarifying my original comment, comment #1 on this thread.

Your attitudinal funk aside, thanks for essentially confirming the intent of my original post--that parents could likely request videos that showed, as "set dressing," lunchroom monitors interacting with students. My child was once hurt by a lunchroom monitor who did not like that he was focusing more on enjoying himself than eating. Our followup with the school was basically an accusation that "something must be going on at home." I have a hard time imagining that my child is the only one who has ever had a negative interaction with a school staff member in a lunch room, so in times it might be nice to have access to videos.


Dave said…
Kitchen staff (who are busy during "lunch") are represented by Local 609 of the Operating Engineers Union.

ALL members of Local 609 are expressedly protected by contract from video or other electronic surveillance in the workplace.

There are rarely more than 1 or 2 adults in Washington's lunchroom during most lunches.

Thanks Charlie,
Anonymous said…
So let me see... WMS has at least 3 Security officers, two VP Admins and there are ample staff who for extra compensation could sit through any and all lunches. Where I live now all staff are required to take a shift in the lunchroom so this issue could be resolved.

So what about Madison, Hamilton, Denny or Whitman.. are they having such problems that they too need cameras?

Once again this is about her Majesty and her own problems dealing with students and staff.

- Old Timer
Dave said…
Old Timer

Washington has ONE Security Specialist and a police officer. Neither is in the lunchroom during lunch.

There WERE TWO Security Specialists assigned to Washington until this year when both requested transfers to different schools.

Why not visit and see for yourself.
Anonymous said…
I have worked there in the past (as in last year) and have no intention of setting foot in that dump again.

I know of two subs who were told to do lunchroom duty, they refused.

Interesting that they now have Police and a security officer. Police at a middle school, wow. One wonders why the other two (both useless clearly as I met them and yes they were) did transfer? More casualties of her Majesty.

- Old Timer
Charlie Mas said…
HF, you're right. I'm wrong. Sorry.
Ms206 said…
I teach in Philadelphia and all of the schools run by The School District of Philadelphia have surveillance cameras in public areas such as the lunchroom, hallways, stairwells, and entrances. I don't know what the policies are regarding usage of the cameras, although there are policies in place. I think that the cameras are a good thing. They can provide footage of serious incidents like fights. There need to be clear policies around how video is to be used.
Anonymous said…

I teach in Nashville we are camera and cop happy here. I am not sure but wasn't it in your area the videos were used to help find the student who murdered and raped a Teacher a couple of years ago?

The idea of cameras in public areas are a growing issue and it is one that is Catch 22. However the 'story' of the kid walking into a lunchroom at Ingraham High last week throwing down a backpack screaming "Allah Akabar" would be easily confirmed/denied with a video vs rumor mongering.

The school in Lakeshore used hallway/door video to realize that a Teacher lied about being attacked in a classroom and that in fact the Teacher did it to himself so another good reason why I applaud cameras.

However the back story of WMS is that when the Principal was asked about it she said it was to see who was not clearing up after themselves.. instead of being honest/forthright that there have been increasing complaints and discipline issues in the school of late and having cameras add another eye to the situation. Follmer has serious other issues in the school which is really the reason for the backlash.

It is not the camera it is the way it was presented and if you met Follmer or read the staff surveys you would know that the iceberg and the tip are being introduced.

I frankly would have no problem having cameras in the classroom and realizing that only FOIA acts and criminal subpoena's would allow anyone outside of the school to view them. They would be a good thing for both students and teachers. But then again I teach in a district where 6 year old assaulted a Teacher and a high school where a Teacher was beaten unconscious and it was only the kids filming that provided evidence. Another where not one but two homicides occurred on campus - one during graduation.

Come to the South its great!!!

- Former SPS'er
Elsa said…

If you have interacted with Ms. Follmer, you must know that "honest" and "forthright" are WAY below her pay grade and really only apply to little people.

It also says that SSD spends way too much on "Instructional leaders" who obsess on who leaves a messy table.

Denny Parent said…
I do know that Denny has cameras because my child got called in for not cleaning up their tray(they didn't buy lunch). They were then brought into review footage, at which time they pointed out the student on the camera was not them. I have very mixed feelings about this.
Anonymous said…
And Denny Parent it showed that the camera's worked, mistaken identity and the whole ID thing that we talk about in criminal law and body camera's are supposed to at least reduce that element.

Again, your child was not harmed. Falsely accused of a minor violation frankly idiotic but whatever and thankfully the camera exonerated him/her.

So now if it was your child who was assaulted or accused of assaulting someone and that camera could help resolve this.. what would your feelings say then?

Yes we agree lunch crumbs are idiotic waste of both time and effort but violence, crime and safety.. sorry but I am pro cameras everywhere. Including classrooms

- Former SPS'er
I might not have a problem with in-school cameras except the district has no policy around their use. That makes for major privacy issues that could land the district in court.

And again, principals should not be making safety decisions for their schools. That's the district's job.
Anonymous said…
Well, everyone should know that all school buses have security cameras already, so what's the big deal about cafeterias?

Btw. Most of the cafeteria "staff" working lunches are actually people hired to work in special education, IAs. Instead, they work in the cafeteria so everyone else's kids are supervised. Special education students - well, they can fund the lunch supervision of the whole school, right? So, IAs are the ones that would be video'ed if there was a cafeteria camera. The contract to inspect is the CBA for instructional assistants. IAs are allowed to decline being video'ed, and are instructed to exercise that "right" to refuse video at IEPs when parents wish to video their IEP meetings. All staff is supposed to say "no" to being video'd in an IEP meeting, when parents request that, which is often. It's a tactic. We wouldn't want anybody to really know what happened at IEP meetings would we? We surely don't want anybody to know what was promised to families, but not delivered, nor why. And, we really, really don't want to know about the staff behavior at IEP meetings. Could get ugly! Best to refuse the video at IEP meetings. Cafeteria, well that's wide open.

Sped Staff
Anonymous said…
Nashville Teacher,
I believe you are thinking about the Teacher/Student murder case in Danvers, MA, north of Boston.

WS Dad
Anonymous said…
WS Dad,

Thank you. I have read so many attacks of late on Teachers and the increasing violence in schools I am pro camera in every room.

They lock bathrooms here and escort kids to them as well due to violence.

The police state is here. I just think we should all wear body cams.

- Former SPS'er
RLF said…
Don't you want to rethink the whole setup, rather than continue to widen the police state road?
Anonymous said…
I work in violent laden schools. The last school I was at the Teacher removed a girl which was because I was new she had a history of harming new staff.. her response when leaving was "I only hit that last one once"

I had a kid trail me with a laser pen as is if it was a gun, when I complained that I felt afraid I was told "you don't understand our children" I see, as the last Teacher there understood them by performing oral sex and having sex with several male students. That is understanding in a whole new way. The student Teacher who was assigned to her thought it was odd that the boys kept coming onto her sexually but thought it was an age thing.. but then I have had three boys and one girl approach me in a sexual manner and I am well over 50. Must be a Southern thing right?

So let's see how cameras would protect on both ends.. shall we?

- Former SPS'er
Anonymous said…
hum so "you new that" did you former, and you got paid to teach my kids? and oh on grammar; please grammarian god tell me that this mc-spinoff never taught anyone anything to do with anything. not one sentence that couldn't be splintered off as illogical and yet profoundly grammatically incorrect too. and i know the pot, so this kettle has nothing to really argue, but yikes you can run but you can't hide.

no caps

oh and the fact that x was propositioned by y (a youth) and didn't report it seems outside the rules of engagement. have it happen repeatedly; there is a serious question here.
Anonymous said…
no caps

what abusive nonsense are you spouting here. Where did I say "I new that" could you highlight that for me.

And since you are a skilled linguist and your post is laden with grammatical and punctuation errors perhaps you could explain what in the post structure is illogical and incorrect.

Thanks looking forward to your copy editing and proofreading skills to lend import to a comment section on a blog. I was unaware that Thesis level composition was required but since you are here to offer such I look forward to it.

And for the record I was never a Teacher in SPS but you appear to have attended SPS given your amazing articulate manner

- Former SPS'er
Anonymous said…
sorry former, your post read like someone who peddles in hyperbole and who struggles with sight words. i read your post one of the several ways it could be based on your poor composition. again sorry.

no caps
Anonymous said…
Since you are clearly a professional writer or editor I would appreciate you highlighting/marking or correcting my work as a means of demonstrating what you found confusing and in turn led you to mistread my posts

Clearly as illustrated by your well written and compsed posts I could benefit from editing

So please feel free to rewrite them as I welcome such positive feedback as a means to improve my written communication skills

Or perhaps it really was a poor version of ad hominem attack as you made inferences with regards to my post as something that personally inflamed you? Please be less cryptic and next time just call a spade a spade

Oh wait that last comment could be inferred as racist .. so sorry

-Former SPS
I think we will end this discussion here.

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