Iowa School District to Use Body Cameras on Administrators


"He said, she said" will cease be a problem in an Iowa school district — at least when it comes to interactions between administrators and students or their parents. In a move to increase personal accountability, the Burlington Community School District has plans to equip administrators with body cameras to record their interactions at school, according to Will Greenberg from the Washington Post.

District Superintendent Pat Cohen believes that the cameras will be helpful for all parties.

 "It's personal accountability," Superintendent Pat Coen told The Des Moines Register. "Did we treat this person with dignity, honor and respect? And if we didn't, why didn't we?

The district comprised of 4,300 students located along the eastern Iowa border will be the first in the nation to outfit school administrators with body cameras, writes Mackenzie Ryan for the Des Moines Register.

While the use of body cameras is rising in popularity among police officers and military personnel, some safety experts are skeptical of the move in schools. Ken Trump from the National School Safety and Security Services believes that the use of body cameras in school is a "substantial overreach".

"They're not in the dark alleys of local streets on the midnight shift," said Trump, president of the Ohio-based consulting firm. "They're in school with children."

Privacy concerns may also be an issue since these cameras will be able to pick up private conversations between individuals, which raise several legal questions.

The cameras could also prevent trust between students and teachers, which is an important aspect of student safety. It's possible that students wouldn't share information with teachers — such as abuse at home or a friend bringing a weapon to school — due to a fear of being recorded, according to Megan Geuss from ARS Technica.

These concerns may be valid, but video footage played an important role in a case this past year where a principal was accused of kicking a student. A parent had complained about the principal's deescalation strategies while trying to calm down her child. Since the interaction was caught on video, there was no question about what actually happened, and it was shown the allegations weren't true.

Jeremy Tabor, the Director of Human Resources for Burlington School District, said people assuming that the school will use these cameras in the same manner as police are wrong. "We don't want to create a system where we're monitoring every activity… we just want to make sure that if something happens," the school has the most information possible.

The district is working on a policy relating to camera use, and principals will be responsible for uploading the recordings and reviewing footage when necessary.

At $85 each, the cameras cost the district a total of $1,100. The 13 cameras record footage with the date and time stamp and be clipped on to clothing or lanyards and can be turned off as needed.

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