School board to ban secret cameras on district property
After months of controversy, false starts and speculation, the board of education of Valdez City Schools made a firm stand on a new policy on hidden cameras and secret video recordings on school property: just don’t do it.
“That sounds like a simple policy,” board member Anita Fannin said Monday night during a discussion on a new board policy on the subject. “No surreptitious recording.”
Dan Walker, vice-president of the board said if school administrators suspect wrong-doing is occurring on school property, then they should call in law enforcement to investigate the situation. No district employees, students or administrators will be allowed to plant or hide secret cameras on school property, period.
The move comes after the board struggled with several draft camera policies that would have given the superintendent the authority to plant hidden cameras on district properties.
The first draft of the hidden camera policy allowed the superintendent to secretly hide cameras with the requirement that the board be notified of the recording at the first meeting held after the cameras were hidden.
A second draft called for board approval before cameras could be hidden on school property; that provision was quickly dumped once it became apparent the board could not approve hiding secret cameras without doing so in public.
The need for a policy regarding secret recordings on district property came last April when a night custodian at Gilson Jr. High School reported finding a camera hidden in a ceiling tile in the teacher lounge. A second camera was found hidden in a clock radio that was placed in a custodial closet at Valdez High School. Witnesses say the camera in the clock had previously been located in the same lounge at Gilson.
School employees and the public were outraged at the find, but were later stunned to learn that the hidden cameras were not only legal in Alaska, but that the district had no policy regarding hidden cameras in the schools.
The issue was further muddled after Valdez fire chief George Keeney appeared before the board of education with officials from the state’s division of Homeland Security urging the board to not outright ban hidden cameras on district property.
Keeney told the board that the city was in the midst of conducting a security assessment of Valdez infrustructure with the state’s Divisision of Homeland Security and it was highly likely the resulting report would contain a recommendation that security cameras be placed throughout the district’s schools.
At Monday night’s meeting, Dr. Kathy Todd, who originally brought up the concept the board ban secret recordings on district property, said the issue of security cameras and secret cameras had become muddled and hoped to see the issues addressed seperately.
A faint cheer went up from the audience members at the meeting after the board said it would ban all secret recordings.