New Security Cameras Create Mixed Reactions

New+Security+Cameras+Create+Mixed+Reactions

Meagan Sundstrom

One of the security cameras in a WHS hallway.
One of the security cameras in a WHS hallway.

After multiple Walpole High School students appeared on the local Fox 25 news and administration held various series of debates and meetings at the end of the last school year, the Walpole School Committee approved the installment of new school security cameras in Walpole Public Schools late last June. The committee also released the School Security Camera Protocol—stating the purpose and extent of security camera placement. The cameras were placed in the hallways of Walpole High School over the weekend of December 14, 2013 and are ready to record; however, staff will not have access to the recordings until they go through training, which was set to take place in the last two weeks of January.

The 19 cameras were installed strategically through the hallways of the school, with three in the main lobby, two in the cafeteria, and one in the library. No cameras are located in private lo- cations such as restrooms and locker rooms.

According to Assistant Principal William Hahn, Walpole Public Schools is one of the few school districts that have yet to install cameras, as many other schools such as Norwood, Wellesley, and Natick already have them in place. Mr. Hahn said, “It is actually uncomon for new schools not to have cameras. It’s become the new norm… More high schools like ours that are not newly constructed are looking into security cameras.”

In the Security Camera Protocol, authorized personnel possess the only access to the footage, and no one will monitor the live recordings except in the case of a suspected incident. Administrators view the recordings through a log-in and password to a designated website, and each time they log-in, they must specify the reason. Unless administrators need the footage for an ongoing investigation, the video recordings—none of which capture sound—will be automatically deleted after 30 days.

Additionally, the School Committee released a second section to “Policy ECA: Buildings and Grounds Security” to authorize and discuss the use of the cameras. The policy dictates that the cameras can only be located where there is no reasonable expectation of privacy and that any student or faculty member identified in the footage performing actions in violation of the district rules will undergo disciplinary action.

Despite the fact that four cameras had already been placed around the school in past years, administration still faces student opposition. According to Hahn, the students have multiple layers of reactions: there are some who think the cameras are a waste of money, some who think they break civil liberties, and some who think they will make the school safer.

The founding member of the Students-Opposing-Surveillance, senior Jon Kelland, said, “I believe it’s an unnecessary expenditure by the school, and I wish that money went to more practical uses. There are more productive ways this money could have been spent.”

Although opposers may be perceived as a negative aspect, Hahn believes that these resisting ideas are actually a positive influence. He said, “I think an opposing voice is very healthy. It makes sure we have certain policies in place and makes sure we are installing and utilizing the cameras well and appropriately.”

The overall purpose of the camera installment is to enhance school security and to create a safer learning environment for students and faculty using modern security systems. Whether or not students and faculty concur with the installment of the new cameras, they will remain in place due to the School Committee’s approval. According to the policies and the original proposal of installing the system, school administrators hope the cameras are able to prevent any destructive actions within Walpole Public Schools in the future.