Author: benw

Surveillance Cameras in Public Schools Do More Good Than Harm

PRO (4 arguments)


Surveillance cameras- A network of cameras that are easily visible that help an area monitor what is going on.

Public schools- a school supported by public funds from grades 4-12.

Weighing Mechanism: Judge, we should weigh this debate on which side proves it does more good or harm towards the students at the schools and the safety of the schools.

1. Surveillance cameras help catch illicit actions in public schools.

During the 2005–06 school year, according to the most recent statistics available from the U.S. Department of Education, 86 percent of public schools nationwide reported that one or more serious violent incidents, thefts, or other crimes had occurred at their school, for a total of roughly 2.2 million crimes. That works out to about one crime reported for every 20 students. And that doesn’t include vandalism and graffiti: Nearly 100,000 incidents of vandalism are reported in the United States public school system every year. If we installed security cameras into these public schools, we could have reduced crime and found out who performed the crime. With cameras, according to the U.S. Department of Education, 65% of these crimes performed would have been stopped or the culprit found, but without the cameras the culprits got away.

During the 2011-2012 school year in a Chicago school district, crime was increasing 15%. However, the next year the some of the schools installed surveillance cameras, and their crime rates decreased 95%, whereas the schools that didn’t install the cameras had an increase in crime. Stated by Ronald D. Stephens, the executive director of the National School Safety Center.

During 2008, when Baltimore had public schools with the highest crime rate install cameras, their crime rates dropped 68%.

2. It will increase the wellbeing of the students in the schools.

School safety and emotional well-being are correlated states scientist John Parker. If a school area is safe, with little crimes, the well-being of the students will increase greatly. A study in 2012 showed that when a public school has a crime rate of less than 45%, the students will increase their well-being by more than 70%. According to PBS. Afterall, the definition of well-being is being comfortable and safe in an enviornment, which is what these surveillance cameras do. They help to decrease the crime, in turn helping the students at the school. Cal Social Sciences Reasearch data reveals that about 40% of middle and high school students in California do not feel safe at school, and only one-third of high school staff think their schools are safe for students.


In a recent California Endowment survey of 1,200 voters, there was strong public support for improving school safety by adding cameras. According the book School Safety, when out of 1,001 students missed school at least once because they felt unsafe at school, 56.9percent of them have felt sad or hopeless for more than two weeks. Similarly, students who have been threatened with a weapon at school are 4.34 times more likely to attempt suicide than those who have never had such an experience. However, when the school where these students went installed cameras to monitor crime rate, 99% of those sad students felt more protected and were happy. So, judge, as you can see, if schools who have big crime rates install cameras, it will greatly increase the students well-being. Why wouldn’t we want our own students to be comfortable in a very important place?

3. There are guidelines to where these cameras can be placed.

Under the No Child Left Behind Education Program, a law signed in January 2002, violence prevention programs such as surveillance cameras must meet specific principles and guidelines with scientific research to back up the claims that it decreases crime. Also, there are school district policies which the schools must pass. After the cameras are installed, a district official will go to the school and check each camera to make sure they are placed in appropriate places. This process is done for each school which wants to install cameras.  

There is also a list of specific guidelines.

1. Determine the reasons, costs and limitations of a video camera surveillance system at your specific school.

2. Video cameras must be placed in “public places” in the school environment.

3. If you use video camera surveillance, strongly consider not recording audio conversations.

4. Comply with FERPA (Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act)

5. Explicitly notify students and staff through prominent signage of the location(s) of video cameras as well as the fact that they are being videotaped.

6. If a school district does decide to implement a video camera surveillance system, you must develop a detailed, video surveillance privacy policy for the district.

4. These security cameras ward off and catch wrongdoers.

Marlborough Police Chief Mark Leonard said cameras also play a role in school safety. Many schools have cameras wired directly to the police stations, meaning officers can see live video at the touch of a computer button. Meaning that if the station gets a call from a school about a crime, the police can quickly and easily check to see who it is. In the Chicago school district, cameras have helped catch over 20 criminals, in turn decreasing their crime rate. In the Minneapolis school district, over 15 criminals have been caught thanks to the schools’ surveillance cameras. In fact, if a school has a security camera system, they are 3 times more likely to catch and prevent a crime from happening than schools that don’t.  So far, at the McKinney high school in New York, cameras in the school have helped save and recover over $5,000 worth of school property. Also, at over 45 high schools and elementary public schools, over $3 million has been recovered in total. Judge, with these cameras, we are helping schools earn back money that was rightfully theirs. Monologue--Walter Cunningham.

In Natick, detectives investigating the use of a stolen or lost credit card in a school at Natick Collection used a high-quality video taken by the school’s camera to investigate the crime, said Natick Police spokesman Lt. Brian Grassey. "As technology improves, our ability to identify improves," Grassey said.

When the offenders of crimes where no video cameras where used in a school, were asked if they would still have committed their offences if they knew the Security cameras had been operational 82% said no.

CON (4 arguments)

1. It is a violation of the children’s rights.

The Fourth Amendment protects everyone from unreasonable searches, which video cameras do. Surveillance cameras view children without them knowing or without their consent, meaning they can see whatever they wish to see. The Supreme Court ruled that "What a person knowingly exposes to the public, even in his own home or office, is not a subject of Fourth Amendment protection, but what he seeks to preserve as private, even in an area accessible to the public, may be constitutionally protected.

Also, The images of students captured on security videotapes contain personally identifiable student

information and are considered confidential in accordance with the Family Educational Rights

and Privacy Act

In January 2008, cameras at a school in Kanton, Ohio, recorded 10- to 14-year-old boys and girls undressing in adjacent changing areas in preparation for basketball, and stored the images on a computer accessible through the Internet, according to a federal lawsuit filed by parents.

During a 2003 girls’ basketball game at Livingston Middle School in Overton County, Tennessee, visiting team members noticed a security camera in the girls’ locker room. It turned out the camera had recorded images of the team members in their undergarments when they changed their clothes. Several other students had been similarly videotaped over the previous months. Additionally, video evidence shows images of naked students were assessed over the Internet 98 times from June 2002 through January 2003. In addition to placing a camera in a very inappropriate location, the school district’s lack of computer security protections failed to restrict access to the images of the children on the school’s website. Both the inappropriate camera location and lack of computer security protections were cited as violations of the children’s privacy rights. The scandal led to Brannum v. Overton County School Board, a lawsuit on behalf of 24 students.

The recording of audio conversations is likely to violate Title I of the federal Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 as well as state wiretapping laws, but many public schools still do it. In fact, over 80% of public schools with security cameras also record audio conversations.

2. Security camera's are expensive to buy, install and maintain.

Cameras are expensive, with most high-end systems costing $500,000 or more, plus annual maintenance fees of about $200,000.  In a time when schools across the country are having budget cuts, good security cameras costing up to 7,000 dollars EACH would be a huge financial burden on the school which would more than likely result in the lay-offs of employee's, academic classes being dropped, extracurricular activities such as band and athletics being eliminated, etc. simply to buy security camera's. Also, judge, security cameras don’t always work forever, so no matter what they are going to have to get maintained or repaired, which is more money spent. In fact, according to PBS, the security cameras installed at most public schools today have to be repaired at least twice a month, resulting in about $10,000 spent every month just for cameras. In addition, security cameras cost up to $15,000 for installation.

3. Security cameras harm the students at the school.

Matthew Mayer and Peter Leone, scientists at Columbia University, conducted an empirical study involving almost 7000 public school students, finding that schools’ reliance on surveillance cameras  may lead to more disorder, crime, and violence. When public schools get security cameras, they think every action can be classified as good or bad, resulting in more bad actions. When schools get cameras, they are three times more likely to arrest more teenagers for doing nothing wrong, than schools that don’t have cameras. Judge, this means the schools should not be deciding if these actions are good or bad, because it results in an increase in crime.

The public schools already are manned by 4,625 safety agents – a larger force than the entire police departments of Baltimore, Boston, or San Diego. In addition to this, the new systems called for in Local Law 52 include cameras linked by a network to a main server in each school. Video is watched live by school safety agents from a monitoring console. Design requirements state that “both live and archived video can be viewed locally on LAN (Local Area Networks) and remotely over DOE WAN (Wireless Area Networks).” This means that every action you perform will be watched, in turn harming the reputation of every student if they do one bad action.

4. Security cameras create a hostile environment.

Putting up cameras will make students feel distrusted. If cameras are put inside of the school, students will think that the administration believes that they will do mischievous things inside of the school. This will create a more hostile environment because it will cause students to think of themselves as troublemakers, which is something we don’t want in school. In fact, accordin gto ABC News, when security cameras  where placed inside of 20 public schools, the trust of the students with the administration in 19 of the schools  dropped over 67%. Likewise, when the schools had no cameras, the trust rate increased back to normal. "There's no indication that there's a need for this kind of prison-style security. The message it sends to students is 'We don't trust you, and everybody is a suspect'" states Amanda Golden, professor at UCLA. Why do we want our students to distrust their schools? If a student has done nothing wrong, we should not be punishing them by having these cameras watching their every move.