Cameras within classrooms: polarized opinions

Sydney Czyzon, Views Editor

To some individuals, the implementation of cameras within classrooms seems like a beneficial addition to educational facilities. To others, however, the idea seems ridiculously unnecessary and overly intrusive.

In February of this year, some Washington County schools received 16 ThereNow video cameras that were generously paid for by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Bill Gates has been vocal about his support for spending a surplus of money in order to install cameras in classrooms across America. Each classroom received two devices that evaluated both teacher’s methods and students’ reactions. Then, a gadget similar to a flash drive can transports the information from the video cameras to the computer screen of an evaluator.

After the implementation occurred, the cameras were suspended from the schools and the process was evaluated by state officials in order to ensure proper privacy to students and educators. Parents and students were not notified of this idea coming into action, and teachers weren’t given a choice as to whether or not they wished to participate in the videotaped evaluation.

Tennessee state representative, Matthew Hill, expressed to Johnson City Press, “Having teachers and students videotaped without their consent, I think that crosses a line.” Tony Padgett, a parent of a student at the school, released a comment to the same news source by saying, “We have to sign a release every year for our kids’ images to be put into a yearbook, but nobody asked if they can videotape my child?”

Others think that the footage isn’t particularly harmful. “We figured the teacher will watch themselves, and then the principal and teacher would sit down and talk about what they were doing right and how they could improve. The only people alive that will ever see the video are the principal and teacher,” indicated Assistant Director of Washington Schools Bill Flanary to Johnson City Press.

On the popular website, users are given the opportunity to present their thoughts regarding controversial topics. In reference to classroom surveillance, 53% of voters insist that there should be cameras in classrooms, while 47% are against the proposal.

One individual who is pro-cameras in classrooms wrote, “Give parents a code to do real time virtual visits to the classroom. Observe teachers not just for accountability, but for training purposes. Get rid of behavior management problems on the spot! Are you aware of the thousands of dollars that are spent every day in U.S. Schools just dealing with classroom management?”

On the other hand, another person disagreed by asserting, “These days, parents are obsessed with monitoring everything about their kids, but taping their education is not the solution. The cameras would be a distraction, and eager parents would not be able to resist watching and interfering constantly.”

As for legality, using cameras in classrooms does not break any current laws. On the website for the U.S. Department of Justice, the text states that if a teacher is made aware of the implementation and agrees to cooperate then the act is completely lawful. The only places where cameras would be deemed inappropriate would be locker rooms, bathrooms, or private offices without permission from the office holder.

The opinions among Joliet West students seem to differ as well. Junior Melissa March stated, “I would feel completely uncomfortable and very oppressed. I think it would hold back learning and discussion because some people would say different things knowing that they were on camera.” Contrary to Melissa, junior Stephanie Arellano chimed in with, “I don’t think I would mind, actually. If they need to supervise someone or watch a person of interest on video it would be beneficial for the school.” As for now, Dr. Gibson has confirmed that cameras are not being contemplated for monitoring purposes in Joliet West classes.

Regardless of whether or not cameras are ultimately placed in future classrooms, there are many strong-willed opinions held by parents, students, and educators nationwide. The decision may not be unanimous, but only time will tell whether the method is effective or simply useless and invasive.

Security cameras in school hallways are relatively common; however, some schools are now considering installing video cameras within classrooms. Photo courtesy of Sydney Czyzon.
Security cameras in school hallways are relatively common; however, some schools are now considering installing video cameras within classrooms. Photo courtesy of Sydney Czyzon.