Did the school principal mistreat little Johnny? Did Johnny have it coming? Let’s go to the tape.
They’re looking to do just that in Iowa’s Burlington Community School District by equipping administrators with body cameras to record their interactions with students and parents, the Des Moines Register reported.
The move is intended to increase personal accountability, the head of the school district said. District Superintendent Pat Coen also said he believes the move should be helpful to all parties, creating a record to review as needed. That’s the same rationale that’s being used as police departments are becoming equipped with body cameras.
But Coen also told the Register that cameras were beneficial during his time in the Iowa Army National Guard overseas, where soldiers wore helmet cameras.
“You always knew that if you messed up, the whole world got to see you mess up,” Coen said. “It wasn’t so much about catching the other guy, but collecting how we did on the operation and how can we do it better.”
“You have to ask, really, why are we doing this?” Trump told the Register. “And is it going to create more problems than it solves?”
While it may seem drastic to some, video footage capture inside a school has come in handy recently in the school district. This past school year, video footage saved Principal Mark Yeoman of Aldo Leopold Middle School, one of the schools in the Iowa district, from a sticky situation when he used footage from a school camera to disprove allegations that he had kicked a student. Cameras were installed in the hallways, stairwells and lunch rooms of Burlington schools more than 10 years ago, according to the Register.
“They didn’t have to take my word over the child’s word. They were able to see it,” Yeoman said.
Yeoman told the Register the school district is developing a policy regarding use of the body cameras. And, according to the paper, only principals and assistant principals, and not teachers, at the district’s schools will be wearing the cameras. Additionally, Coen said, administrators will be judicious in how they treat student behavior that’s caught on tape.
Still, Trump said he fears using the cameras will intimidate students and damage students’ trust of school officials.
Additionally, the use of the cameras raises privacy and legal questions, Trump said. For example, once the school district begins recording footage with the cameras, one question will be whether the footage is a matter of public record, Fusion reported.
A handful of school districts nationally have explored the use body cameras on their campus police officers recently, including the Houston Independent School District.
According to the Register, Burlington Community School District would be among the first school districts in the country to outfit school administrators with body cameras.