Up to 600 security cameras coming to Everett schools
EVERETT - The Everett School District will be installing digital security cameras in all of its schools by fall of 2014.
The district will be installing 400 to 600 new cameras in hallways, parking lots and most other public areas, but not where individuals would expect privacy like in classrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms.
The hardware will be located inside a central room in the district’s new Community Resource Center administration building currently under construction.
The new cameras were planned years ago. Voters approved the cameras in 2010 as part of a six-year building repair and technology levy. The security system is estimated to cost $1.2 million.
Security cameras are not new to Everett schools. The district currently has 82 older cameras in its middle and high schools. Another 112 are on school buses.
When the new cameras go up, signs will be posted letting people know they’re being recorded.
The district emphasized that there will be no “surveillance room” with staff monitoring live feeds.
A new district policy says the video recordings can only be used as evidence in student and employee discipline hearings, in vandalism and other crimes committed on district property and to protect school property.
Top-level school administrators and police will be able to access the video recordings remotely via an iPad, for example, when an incident happens. Only staff members with “need to know” clearance will be allowed to access recordings, district spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.
The only time someone would be watching real-time feeds would be if an intruder was on school grounds, Waggoner said.
The recorded video is subject to public records laws, but will be considered on a case-by-case basis. Except for recordings being kept as evidence or for investigations, the district will erase video more than 30 days old.
The Everett School Board approved the new video monitoring policy 2 to 1 last week. The five-member board was short two: Pam LeSesne and often-absent Jessica Olson.
Board member Ed Petersen voted against the camera policy because of timing. The vote happened a day after a Herald article about the policy prompted the district to send an e-mail challenging some items in the story.
Petersen wanted to delay the vote so the district could set the record straight.
“I’m not arguing not to do it, the timing is not right,” Petersen said.
The board had to make a decision now, district officials said, because the district needs its parent-student policy handbooks ready by early August. The board next meets Aug. 27. The camera policy will be in that handbook.
The timing for the new cameras is coincidental and had nothing to do with the December mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut.
After Sandy Hook, parents were calling and demanding video systems be installed now, Waggoner said.
“It’s now an expectation,” she said.
In the past, the district has received negative reactions for its use of cameras.
The cameras won’t be used for teacher evaluations and will not be secretly installed in classrooms, Waggoner said.
In 2008, the district got negative press for secretly recording a journalism teacher’s classroom at Cascade High School. For about one month at the end of the 2007 school year, then-Superintendent Carol Whitehead admitted that a video surveillance camera was installed in teacher Kay Powers’ classroom after Powers took a stand supporting free speech for an underground Cascade student newspaper. Powers was fired for helping the underground newspaper and later reinstated at another high school.
After the teacher’s union sued in 2009, the district pledged in a settlement with the Everett Education Association not to monitor classrooms.
The teacher’s union worked with the district on this new video policy, Waggoner said.
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