As reported in the media last month the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) has raised concern about CCTV in schools. ATL has conducted a preliminary survey of teachers throughout the UK and found that 85% of those questioned said CCTV was operating in their schools, often used to monitor the behaviour of the pupils within school hours. 10% of those surveyed said CCTV was operating in the toilets. And over 50% admitted to concerns about the use of CCTV around their schools. There are huge civil liberty issues regarding the use of CCTV in schools - children have no means to express any opposition despite there being very strict rules regarding juvenile privacy. We share the concerns raised by Action on Rights for Children (ARCH) that surveillance cameras in schools act simply to normalise state surveillance - if you grow up surrounded by surveillance you are less likely to question the ever growing police state as an adult.
So what of the perceived trade off of giving away freedoms for this ever elusive security? Does CCTV in schools actually do anything positive? According to a report in Security Management written by John J. Strauchs, Senior Principal of Strauchs LLC:
"Schools are not the largest market by any means, but they are the most troubling. There is a virtual pandemic of schools installing video cameras willy-nilly [...] The lay public, unfortunately, doesn't understand the technology and ignorantly believes that the simple act of installing cameras stops crime. Cash-starved high schools, in particular, may be choosing video surveillance over higher teacher pay, text books, or afterschool programs for students. ... With very few exceptions, it is almost a useless tool to prevent serious crimes in most schools because they rarely, if ever, have the staff to effectively monitor the cameras."
So, teachers are not keen on CCTV in schools. Neither is the CCTV industry. What about the kids? Well according to the BBC kids just love being surveilled. In a bizarre propaganda stunt, BBC's Newsround interviewed a group of school children about surveillance cameras, whilst they were at school, presumably under the gaze of their teachers. Sure enough the kids rolled off a litany of pro-surveillance hyperbole, reminiscent of when Saddam Hussein appeared on television in 1990 to ask British hostages how they were enjoying their stay.
It is deeply inappropriate to put children in this situation and ask them to comment on a topic of which they cannot possibly understand the full ramifications. CCTV in schools is wrong. And no amount of children saying they like being filmed will make it right. We need to ask serious questions about what our society has become that we need to film children at school as though they were criminals.