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Surveillance cameras approved for inside Fairfax schools

School board members in Fairfax County, Virginia, recently voted to let schools in the district decide individually whether to use interior surveillance cameras. The effort to deter juvenile crime was approved with an estimated $885,000 budget.

Most board members and parents favored having cameras installed in common student areas. One parent thought locker rooms should be included, because it is believed to be one of the most vulnerable places for juvenile theft crimes. The cameras could be a good deterrent to crime in the schools, while also protecting students who are falsely accused because of the clothes they wear or the company they keep.

County public school administrators already employ more than 370 cameras to monitor exterior areas at 30 schools, where officials say vandalism incidents have dropped. The same effect is expected when cameras move inside school walls.

Participating schools could gain evidence of crimes committed by students through surveillance cameras and might be able to protect crime victims. Officials think currently undetected incidents of bullying and other disciplinary problems would be reduced. Some board members believe that inside-the-school cameras would discourage drug trafficking and the creation of trendy, disruptive flash mobs.

The idea to install in-school cameras was proposed by several of the county's principals. Board members were careful not to impose cameras on schools where administrators did not want them. At least one board member felt that the decision to supply cameras was made too hastily and called for more public input before a final vote. The request was dismissed.

One parent agreed that surveillance cameras were only a good idea if school officials used an independent monitoring service. She felt video could be altered too easily by school administrators, whose actions on tape should be just as accountable as students.

Source: Fairfax Times, "Surveillance cameras approved for in-school use," Holly Hobbs, Dec. 16, 2011

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