Without a doubt, whether to deploy surveillance cameras in the middle/high school is a discussion that belongs at the school board and in public, to gauge taxpayers’ reaction, to mull the legal and moral implications. And the board of education should at least be advised when that amount of money (BOCES paid for 30 percent of it) is being spent.
The point of this piece is not whether to use surveillance cameras or not. It is more about who makes the policy decisions in the district we pay for. But we do tend to feel that putting the big eye in the hallways is not necessarily a deterrent to detrimental actions but often is merely a way to record for posterity (and You-tube) actions that have to be prevented in human ways. And we do recognize that it’s apparently the way of the world these days, that you can hardly walk down the street and graze your nose with your hand without being accused of picking. Which stages of the act will the cameras catch? The action or the retaliation? What’s happening around the corner? In the bathroom?
These questions should have been settled before spending the money, ordering the cameras and installing them.
We do not see the board at fault here, nor should the blame be placed on the new superintendent, Dr. McGill, who informed the board as soon as she realized what was happening. And the school district has been active in finding real ways to combat bullying and in curbing violence.
But the board can still have the discussion, in public and with the public. And it should not just be about how to use the cameras now that they’re bought and installed, but on whether they should be there at all. And if they decide they should be utilized, then so be it, and vote on a policy of how they should be used. But if they decide that it is not right for Onteora to engage in such surveillance, then rip them out and put them up for sale on Craig’s List. Anybody want to buy some uninstalled but unused surveillance cameras? ++