Vancouver group questions use of surveillance cameras in public schools

A public-space advocacy group is worried proposed changes to B.C. law will needlessly encourage public schools to use video surveillance as a security tool.

School Act amendments introduced in April would require school boards to first receive approval from a school planning council before they can install and operate cameras in buildings and on district property.

The Vancouver Public Space Network argues the provincial government is effectively touting the use of cameras, which should only be deployed as a last resort to protect the safety of people and property. The group also says the government has not provided adequate guidelines about when it is appropriate to use the surveillance equipment and how to safeguard students’ privacy.

“The safety of our schools is important, but the tools employed in its protection should infringe on the privacy and security rights of B.C. children as little as possible,” Heather Forbes, with the Vancouver Public Space Network, wrote in a letter to Education Minister Margaret MacDiarmid.

“We are concerned about the lesson that kids will learn about their responsibilities as citizens if electronic surveillance usurps the human eye as the go-to for ensuring safety.”

In a statement to the Straight, MacDiarmid says the changes are intended to give students, parents, teachers, and principals input into decisions about installing cameras.

More than 25 school districts in B.C. use video-surveillance cameras and most districts have related policies, according to the ministry.

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Wake up!

May 13, 2010 at 7:55pm

Did anyone ever bother to read 1984???

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