Home > Essays > Surveillance for Shooters Used to Monitor Students. Is That What Parents Want? Is That What the Public Wants? What Kind of Future Does This Prepare Students For?

Surveillance for Shooters Used to Monitor Students. Is That What Parents Want? Is That What the Public Wants? What Kind of Future Does This Prepare Students For?

April 14, 2021

Former journalist Nick Morrison’s recent article describes how schools are using surveillance cameras designed to ID school shooters to monitor student behavior throughout the school day. And, unsurprisingly, researchers at Johns Hopkins in MD and Washington College in MO are finding that “high surveillance” schools with intense camera coverage have higher suspension rates that typical public schools: 

Students at high-surveillance schools are more likely to be on the receiving end of an in-school suspension – where a student is put in isolation within the school, separated from their classmates.

This link holds even when researchers controlled for levels of school disorder and student misbehavior.

“High-surveillance schools create the capacity for high-suspension schools to exist,” said Odis Johnson, professor at Johns Hopkins and lead author of the study.

“Greater detection leads to greater punishment, regardless of the students who attend these schools.”

But the effects don’t end there. Students at high-surveillance schools end up with significantly lower levels of math achievement and are also less likely to go on to college. At least some of this relationship a result of in-school suspensions.

And these findings underscore the unintended consequences of “hardening” campuses by introducing things like metal detectors, cameras, and– yes– SROs. And what is even worse is that the schools with the highest levels of security are the schools that serve poor children and children of color. And the students who receive discipline at these highly surveilled schools? 

They are also four times more likely to be Black, and disproportionately likely to be poor, from a single parent home and to have repeated a grade, the researchers found, after analyzing data on approximately 6,000 students across the U.S.

Along with co-author Jason Jabbari, data analyst at Washington University in St Louis, Johnson describes the disadvantages suffered by students in schools with greater surveillance as a “social control setback”.

The higher level of suspensions and its effect on math scores is almost enough on its own to account for the differences in college attendance.

Once suspensions and lower math scores are accounted for, Black females are more likely to attend college and Black males are no longer significantly less likely to attend college than other students.

So the vicious cycle, the school-to-prison pipeline, results from the presumably well-intentioned action of school boards to “protect” schools from shooters, redirecting money that COULD be used for instructional technology to buy surveillance technology and money that COULD be used for counselors to hire SROs. 

All of this leads to the questions posed in the headline of this post: 

Is this what parents want?

Is this what the public wants?

What kind of future does this prepare students for? 

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