|PTSA members discuss whether cameras are needed|
At a recent PTSA meeting at Annandale High School, parents tried to sort out their feelings about the pros and cons of installing surveillance cameras inside Fairfax County high schools.
In September, the association representing FCPS principals presented a proposal to install cameras in cafeterias and hallways to deter food fights, flash mobs, and other rules violations and to identify perpetrators when incidents occur. The cost ranges from $8,000 to $120,000 per school, depending on how many cameras would be involved.When the issue was raised by the principals, Mason District school board member Sandy Evans asked for input from parents, teachers, and students.
At the Annandale PTSA meeting, AHS Principal Vincent Randazzo asked parents to form small groups to discuss the proposal and see “if it’s something we really want to do.” He asked them to consider whether high schools should have interior cameras, what areas they should cover, and how schools should measure their effectiveness.
In one of the small groups, parents seemed to agree that cameras would be okay in the cafeteria and hallways, but should be banned from classrooms and locker rooms. In another group, one parent said she thought the money could be better spent on other things, while another said, “my daughter feels safe here.”
The student representative on the school board, Eugene Coleman, who attended the meeting, said the students he spoke to at his school, Mount Vernon High School, either oppose cameras or don’t care. No one favors the proposal, he said.
AHS PTSA President Emily Slough said that if surveillance cameras are installed, bullying could move to the bathrooms, and students intent on behaving badly could just be more sneaky.
The push to install more cameras in schools accelerated since the shootings at Virginia Tech. Having cameras in place during that incident might have helped officials understand what happened after the attack, but probably wouldn’t have stopped someone intent on shooting people.
Randazzo said cameras would have been helpful in determining who participated in chaotic and confusing incidents, like the food fights last spring at West Springfield and Centreville high schools.
He noted that some people believe cameras are necessary to help school officials meet their responsibility to “ensure a safe and secure environment,” while others maintain that cameras are intrusive and an invasion of privacy.
“We have a very good culture here,” Randazzo said. “Is this going to add to it or is it going to detract from it?”