Opinion: ANeSU criticized for surveillance
Dear Addison Northeast Supervisory Union and Mount Abraham Union High School boards:
I have not yet heard a response from any of you regarding my letter to you regarding video surveillance at Mount Abraham Union Middle/High School. On April 22 I sent a complaint against the installation of video surveillance cameras in the Mt. Abe Information Technology Help Desk Office without first seeking prior approval from the respective school boards, and without first providing any notification to the school principal, faculty, staff and students.
I have to again stress the importance of my request, because I believe a surveillance system in place, without an associated written surveillance management policy defining how such cameras/photos are installed, utilized, managed, controlled, stored, retrieved, deleted and such, can easily be open to creating other sorts of problems, especially in an environment like a school where you have children.
I believe a surveillance system implemented without a policy can easily create more problems for the school environment than not having a surveillance system at all. I believe also, that without such a more formal and comprehensive design and implementation to a video surveillance system, the installation of cameras without giving any notice whatsoever gives the appearance of one creating a “sting” operation.
And regardless of what the law requires, I believe out of just common courtesy at the very least, that all those potentially impacted by such a video surveillance system should be notified of its presence, and assured that the system will be properly managed.
Why, for example, does the Harwood Union High School see notification as important and the ANeSU does not? In fact, the ANeSU has no surveillance policy at all. The following text is “criteria number 2” from the Harwood Union High School Video Surveillance Policy E14-L-HUHS, under “Communication/Notice”: “Written notification of the use of the security camera system will be provided to all students, staff and parents on an annual basis. There shall be an emphasis on the fact that the camera system is for review of past activities and that it is not monitored on a continuous basis except for the front door camera. In addition, clear and prominently displayed signage as to the presence of the cameras and the lack of continuous monitoring shall be posted at the three main entrances.”
And why, for example, not expect the very same from us adults that we are expecting from the Mount Abraham students when it comes to photographing one another? Mount Abraham students are not permitted to take “secret” photos but Mount Abraham adults are?
This text is taken directly from page 27 of the Mt. Abraham Union Middle/High School Parent/Student Handbook 2014-2015, under “Video/Audio Recordings and Photographs”:“Students are not permitted to photograph, video or take audio recordings of other students oradults in the school building unless they have explicit permission from the adult or student theywish to record/photograph. Any violation of this expectation can result in disciplinaryconsequences.”
It is fairly well known that surveillance is a controversial and sensitive topic for many, especially the effects surveillance may have in an educational environment, so a more collective approach taken from the start by the ANeSU would have been more considerate to the public. Rather than ramrodding an implementation through, it would have been more appropriate to seek input from the broader community — the teachers, students, parents and public. Perhaps the parents of the students would be interested in hearing the rationale behind the approach the ANeSU took.
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