One of the biggest debates today is whether or not schools should use security cameras on campus. There are many pros to video surveillance in education and security cameras have been proven effective in enhancing campus safety. However, school districts should evaluate both the pros and cons before taking action. Improper use of video surveillance can lead to negative sentiments and concerns about privacy invasion.
This post will lay out the pros and cons to understand both sides of this hot button issue. Here are the topics that we’ll cover:
How schools are using security cameras
The pros and benefits of using security cameras in schools
The potential cons and drawbacks of school security cameras
Where and when to use different types of security cameras on campus
How Schools Use Security Cameras
Before we weigh the pros and cons of security cameras in schools, let’s take a look at the current state of video surveillance in education.
Many schools use video surveillance as a security method. Security cameras were used in 91% of public schools, Compared to other school safety measures, video surveillance is the second most common campus security measure after controlled access to buildings.
What security cameras do schools use?
Schools use either on-premise (NVR) systems or cloud video surveillance systems. Cloud solutions have modern infrastructure that allows native remote access and are more scalable.
School security cameras come in different form factors, including bullet, dome, PTZ, and fisheye.
Bullet school security cameras have durable housing in a barrel-like form factor.
Dome school security cameras have dome-shaped housing that is more discreet than that of bullet cameras.
PTZ school security cameras can pan and tilt to change where the camera is facing.
Fisheye school security cameras are dome cameras that capture 360° of footage and provide the maximum amount of camera coverage.
Pros of Using Security Cameras in Schools
School administrators and staff have many responsibilities, and student safety is a top priority. Schools are expected to keep students safe and to have appropriate systems to protect them from everything from bullying, to vaping, to emergencies like natural disasters or active shooter situations. It’s a tall order, and parental and societal concerns and pressure have increased over the years.
This is where video security comes in. Video surveillance is a large part of many school districts’ overall security plan, and most schools consider installing security cameras to help keep students and faculty safe. There are many benefits to this, which we’ll discuss below.
- School security cameras can improve emergency preparedness and response
Video surveillance is on the front line of defense when protecting a school. With modern security cameras, a school can be more proactive with campus safety and know when suspicious activities are happening in real time. Video surveillance improves emergency response for schools and provides a clear indication that the school values safety. For these reasons, most parents tend to support security cameras as long as they are installed responsibly.
It’s crucial to have reliable, up-to-date information during an emergency, and video security helps provide this. Modern systems improve emergency preparedness by helping schools:
Respond to incidents more quickly with automatic real-time alerts
Easily share live footage with emergency responders
Proactively detect suspicious behavior with AI Analytics
- School video surveillance can deter theft, mischief, vandalism, car theft, and potential threats
When security cameras are installed in plain sight, this can deter potential crimes from happening. More often than not, when a camera is visible, a person will think twice before committing a crime since the possibility of facing negative legal repercussions increases dramatically with security cameras.
Bullet cameras are a good choice for areas where schools want to make it obvious that security cameras are present. Bullet cameras have a prominent silhouette that many people associate with traditional CCTV video surveillance.
Bullet cameras have a prominent silhouette that many people associate with traditional CCTV video surveillance.
- School security cameras can decrease bullying and create safer environments for teachers and students
In some instances, teachers can harass students and vice-versa. Harassment can be highly detrimental to a child’s well-being and academic development, while false accusations damage a teacher’s career and reputation. Having security cameras installed in classrooms or public places provides some objective truth when allegations of harassment occur. If an incident happens, video footage can provide leadership with accurate information to act on. Birch Tree Academy has used its security cameras to successfully clear up incidents like this.
Pros of using security cameras to combat bullying:
Prevent escalation by automatically detecting aggressive movement, fights, and bullying in real time.
Resolve investigations quickly to protect victims and provide peace of mind as soon as possible.
Deal with incidents accurately and fairly by using objective video evidence to verify or disprove bullying accusations.
- School security cameras help control campus perimeters and building access
During school hours, knowing who is on-premises is crucial for campus safety. The ability to detect unauthorized visitors is a major pro of security cameras. Security cameras make it easier for security staff to keep track of students and teachers and better understand who should or should not be on school property. AI features like facial recognition give schools even more power to detect unauthorized visitors in real time and improve security.
Video surveillance helps schools protect their campus by detecting trespassers, including unauthorized visitors, fence-hoppers, and suspicious vehicles. Modern security cameras have much better resolution than cameras of days past. Higher video quality makes it possible to effectively monitor large outdoor space such as parking lots, playgrounds, and sports fields.
License plate recognition helps detect unauthorized and suspicious cars parked on school property.
Example: Catching trespassers hopping the fence
For example, University Area CDC (nonprofit providing educational programs to at-risk youth) successfully used video surveillance to protect their campus perimeter. With security cameras and onboard video analytics, they were able to identify the motion caused by trespassers hopping over fences and send security guards to intervene.
5. School security cameras give parents peace of mind
Nothing is more important to parents than their children’s safety. Parents rely on the school to keep their children safe and trust the school administration to properly investigate conflicts, treat their children fairly, and resolve issues quickly.
The presence of security cameras provides greater peace of mind to parents and is a much better experience when these issues do arise. It demonstrates that the school administration takes conflict resolution seriously and prioritizes student safety and general parental concerns. Security cameras also allow administrators to resolve incidents more quickly and give parents prompt and satisfying answers.
Cons of School Security Cameras
While there are numerous benefits to installing security cameras, there are reasons why some believe schools should not use them. School leaders must be aware of these potential drawbacks in order to make an educated decision.
Below are the most common cons and concerns around using video surveillance in schools.
- Legality and privacy concerns
Those against video surveillance in schools consider the use of security cameras to be an invasion of privacy. Video surveillance in schools is legal and common, but if security cameras are installed irresponsibly (i.e., hidden cameras or cameras that are not clearly visible), this can cause concern among students, staff, and parents.
School security cameras should never be used in places where privacy is required, such as restrooms, locker rooms, and employee lounges in some states. Schools can still protect these areas with alternatives like motion sensors or vape sensors, which provide insight without infringing on students’ right to privacy.
Every school that uses security cameras should develop a video surveillance policy that gives proper consideration to student privacy and equity. Read Guide to School Video Surveillance Policy: Safety, Privacy, and Legality for a four-step framework for developing school video surveillance policies that are effective, thoughtful, and responsible.
- Cost of school security cameras and systems
Some commercial and enterprise security camera systems are cost-prohibitive for many schools. Enterprise video surveillance solutions tend to be expensive for schools that are conscious of budget, which puts them in a challenging position.
To help schools improve campus safety, many states provide grants for schools with funding specifically earmarked for school safety and security. Applying for education grants is an excellent way for schools to pay for security camera systems without straining resources. Many vendors also offer special discounts for schools and universities.
- Mistrust from teachers and students
When a school installs security cameras, teachers and students may feel like they are being spied on or like the school doesn’t trust them. This can create feelings of apprehension and resentment.
When deploying security cameras, it is best to have clear policies and to educate teachers and students on why cameras are being used. Make it clear that the school’s priority is the protection and safety of all students, teachers, and staff.
With a modern tool, you can easily extend limited/permission-based access to individual teachers if needed. This can increase feelings of ownership and trust from faculty rather than resentment.
- Inability to prevent active crime
If a crime is in progress, there’s a limit to the value cameras alone provide. Video surveillance cannot physically prevent crime. For most schools, security cameras are part of a larger security strategy that involves School Resources Officers, security policies, and communication with local law enforcement.
Though video surveillance cannot prevent active crime, modern security camera systems can help accelerate emergency response. Smart security cameras can use video analytics to proactively scan for suspicious behavior and send live alerts. School Resource Officers can investigate these security alerts immediately and investigate or escalate to law enforcement.
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