Archive for Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Our view: Cameras at schools worth investigating

April 14, 2004

As school board members on Monday discussed a plan to install security cameras at Tonganoxie schools, Ron Moore raised valid concerns.

Moore said he was uncomfortable with a district plan to place cameras in the hallways of all local school buildings -- as well as outside doorways. The videos could be monitored from principals' offices.

Moore said he was concerned about invading privacy.

"Are we coming to the point where we feel like we're in an inner city school and we have to have cameras in the hallways here?" Moore asked his fellow school board members.

Kay Smith, another board member, had an answer for Moore. And it probably wasn't what he wanted to hear. Smith teaches at Leavenworth High School, where security cameras are used. She believes they're highly useful safety tools.

"I am really supportive of this -- I think we have to look at the fact that Tonganoxie is not your hometown small-town community anymore," Smith said.

Wow. Here we go again. We're faced with another byproduct of growth. And not a pretty one.

But it likely, too, is a product of the age in which we live.

Dorothy's been chased from the Land of Oz by characters who star in violent video games, reality television and disturbing movies. Children today are growing up in a far different place from children who came of age during the Depression, from children who came of age during the Korean War and from children who came of age during the Vietnam War.

Students of today are the children of Gulf War II. And they face many demons -- some real, some hidden behind a computer or TV screen. But the real demons are dangerous, and some of them are lurking in schools, even here in Tonganoxie.

So while is it highly unsettling to think about the prospect of security cameras in hallways at local schools, it also is comforting.

If those cameras can help solve problems at those schools, then the videos probably are worth our uneasiness about privacy issues and the prices we pay for growth. If those cameras will make the bullies of the schools think twice before harassing other students, they're worth it. If those cameras can deter a theft from a locker, a sexual assault on a student or the vandalism of a car from the high school parking lot, they're worth it.

And yes, there's a price to pay. There always is.

But safety in our schools -- both physical and emotional safety -- is a paramount concern, regardless of whether we're in an inner city or in Tonganoxie, Kansas.

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