Cameras in schools, on buses considered

BAR HARBOR — Policy changes that would allow for surveillance cameras on school buses and inside school buildings are being considered by the Mount Desert Island Regional School System board.

The proposed policy revision was recommended by the board’s policy committee and is on the agenda for the board’s Jan. 14 meeting.

The current policy on security cameras says they may be installed in “exterior locations” and positioned to view “exterior public areas of school property, including but not limited to entrances, athletic fields, access paths and parking areas.”

The stated purpose of the policy is to “promote and foster a safe and secure teaching and learning environment… to ensure public safety for community members who visit or use our school property, and to diminish the potential for personal and district loss or destruction of property.”

The policy states that school administrators may review the cameras’ video recordings when there is “a reasonable suspicion that there has been a significant violation of school policy.”

Police officials may look at the recordings “to investigate criminal conduct.”

“The police and administration shall not use video recordings to discover misbehavior when no reasonable suspicion exists,” the policy states.

A few months ago, the policy committee began considering the idea of allowing cameras to be mounted inside school buses to help the drivers maintain order. The discussion then expanded to include the possibility of allowing surveillance cameras in common areas inside school buildings, such as hallways, cafeterias and libraries.

School Superintendent Marc Gousse said that if surveillance cameras were allowed inside schools, the purpose would be to help authorities investigate any crimes or threats to safety. That would include such things as a school shooting.

Gousse said that, as with the exterior surveillance cameras, those inside school buildings would not be routinely monitored by school personnel. They would be used primarily to capture video images for viewing later as part of the investigation of a crime or serious violation of school policy.

Gousse noted that in the aftermath of the shooting at a high school in Parkland, Fla., last February, some students, parents and other community members have called for increased security measures at MDIRSS schools.

The policy changes being considered would allow but not require individual schools to install surveillance cameras in their buildings or on school buses.

The current policy on student conduct on school buses states: “In view of the fact that a bus is an extension of the classroom, the [school] board shall require students to conduct themselves in the bus in a manner consistent with established standards for classroom behavior and with board policies and school rules.

“Students who cause disciplinary problems on the bus may have their riding privileges suspended by the (school principal), as well as being subject to discipline under applicable board policies and/or school rules.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story said the policy committee of the school system board was considering a policy change to allow surveillance cameras on school buses and in common areas inside school buildings. In fact, the policy committee voted at its last meeting to recommend that change to the full board. The proposed policy revision is on the agenda for the board’s Jan. 14 meeting.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]

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