BAR HARBOR — A policy change that allows — but does not require — schools in the Mount Desert Island Regional School System to install security cameras inside school buildings and on school buses was adopted by the school system board Monday night.
Previously, only exterior cameras were allowed.
The new camera policy was included in a package of six policies that the board adopted with little discussion and no dissenting votes.
However, the board’s meeting in January included a lengthy discussion of the pros and cons of having cameras in schools, and the board asked the policy committee to take another look at the proposed policy change. The policy that was adopted Monday included some minor changes and clarifications that board members had suggested at the January meeting.
Superintendent Marc Gousse said at that meeting that if a school elects to install cameras, they would be for “passive monitoring” only.
“That is, you don’t have someone glued to a screen, and you’re not waiting to catch somebody doing something wrong,” he said. “But if we had an incident, it’s an opportunity to go back and reconcile what did or didn’t occur.”
He emphasized that cameras would be allowed only in common areas in schools, such as hallways and cafeterias, not classrooms or offices.
Under the newly adopted policy, only the superintendent, school principals and law enforcement officials are authorized to watch security camera recordings.
The policy states that school administrators may view recordings “where there is a reasonable suspicion that there has been a significant violation of school policy.”
Police may view recordings “to investigate criminal conduct.”
The policy states that the video recordings shall not be used “to discover misbehavior when no reasonable suspicion exists” and that recordings are to be stored for no longer than 14 days without a request from the police or a court.
The policy still allows schools to mount security cameras outside, on school buildings or grounds, where they can focus on public areas such as parking lots, building entrances and athletic fields.
Ethics and absenteeism
One of the other policies adopted by the school system board Monday night is a code of ethics for members of all of the individual school committees.
Another new policy states that a school committee member’s seat may be declared vacant if he or she has three or more consecutive unexcused absences from regular committee meetings.