Home > Uncategorized > Defense Spending in Public Schools Soars as Technology is Seen as Solution to Safety Issues Caused by Social Ills

Defense Spending in Public Schools Soars as Technology is Seen as Solution to Safety Issues Caused by Social Ills

April 3, 2016

Over the past couple of weeks, K-12 Technology has headlined articles on technology based solutions to the statistically bogus fears school districts have regarding school safety.

Late last month the online newsletter offered a free pamphlet titled “How to Choose the Right Security System for Your School” that promised to guide administrators, Board members, and tech-minded security staff members through the labyrinthine choices a district now faces when they decide to protect children from dangerous intruders. The tag line to entice you to click reads: “From video to mass notification systems this guide outlines the steps you should take to secure your school and keep your students safe!”

Yesterday’s issue featured two articles on surveillance technology: one on the Janesville WI school district’s decision to install video cameras in its elementary schools that is fully integrated with the police department:

Each elementary school will have eight surveillance cameras, according to the report. In additional, the schools will practice lock-down drills, have radios connected to the Janesville Police Department and require employees to use electronic key fobs to enter buildings.

And in case you’re wondering what kinds of things the school might be able to report on the radios connected to the police department the article embeds a chilling video of a friendly policeman indicating it could be used for things like bullying incidents and fights in school. Lincoln Elementary School Principal Shawn Galvin, one of the principals in the district offers this sanguine overview of the situation in Janesville:

“I honestly feel like we’re in a good situation. I think we have a lot of things in place, and I feel like we have a secure environment. I think there are things we can always improve on, but always keeping a focus on safety here in the district allows us to do the other things.”

Ahem… excuse me but it seems to me the money spent on technology linking schools to the police department, the time spent coordinating this whole effort, and the hours spent on lock-down drills could have been spent on technology that might link teachers with, say, social workers or guidance counselors and time for teachers to learn about ways to fully engage all the students and parents in the teachers’ hard work in the classroom.

But Janesville in not the only district spending on safety technology. Amarillo TX is going to spend $5,000,000 to enhance its existing surveillance system by 1300 cameras! Why?

The system will “add a presence around campus when somebody can’t be there,” said Jeff Roller, chief technology officer at ASID. “It gives [a limited number of administrators on campus] the ability to be on one location but see throughout the campus… It’s going to be a better presence at all of our elementary schools as well as outside the facilities as well.”

The video footage, which will be kept for up to 45 days, will be monitored by a police liaison officer and the technology department. The increased camera presence is expected to improve school security.

The new cameras only record when motion is sensed, according to the report, which helps limit the amount of unnecessary recording.

“It isn’t just recording an empty hall anymore,” Roller said. “You aren’t having to peruse through a lot of empty film.”

This recounting of the staffing levels for security in Amarillo illicit in this article caught my eye and turned my stomach. The district technology staff or police department is evidently paying someone to “peruse empty film” on a daily basis and, given that the plan incorporates a “location” where administrators can “see throughout the campus”— implies that an administrative staff member watching these cameras daily in real time. But even if these assumptions are flawed— that is even if the footage is stored to be used only when an “incident” occurs— the odds against a truly outrageous incident are small compared to the kinds of incidents— scuffles, loud arguments, and even fights— that might occur on camera that would have been dealt with by teachers ad administrators but may now be dealt with by police.

Here’s the bottom line: our children are being trained to live in a world where it is acceptable to have their activities monitored by cameras connected to law enforcement officers, a world where scarce resources are being spent to control their behavior through external means instead of helping them develop the skills to control their own behavior… What could go wrong in such a world?





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