Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

Summary: A simple enough question with no simple answer. Should schools, college and universities be covered in CCTV?

TOPICS: Hardware

A high school in the UK with 1,090 students has over 110 cameras surveilling their day to day activities in and around the school grounds. Though students were involved in discussions prior to the installation of the cameras, campaigners have criticised the move.

It opens up the age old question. Should CCTV cameras be allowed to watch children in schools?

From a criminological point of view, CCTV is one of many methods employed in situational crime prevention: employing overt and covert techniques to deter the ordinary citizen from engaging in opportunist crime - interlinking in with rational choice theory.

There is, in this instance, no need to differentiate between concrete pillars are placed around protected buildings to prevent car bombers to the bleeping tags attached to clothes in stores.

But CCTV watches over us, in Britain more than anywhere as the modern day surveillance society. CCTV arguably goes further than any other common methods employed by recording and storing images of our being to potentially be used against us for an indiscriminate length of time.

There are some points to take into consideration before coming to an abrupt conclusion. Just to stir things up, you know.

Arguments for and against

To add an interesting twist to the discussion, how about cameras in colleges and universities watching over young adults? Clearly while the motives of the institutions focus on the same goals - providing an education to further the chances and qualities of a persons' life, schools and universities cater for different demographics.

Schools and universities alike have both been rocked by tragic events seen in Columbine and Virginia Tech. But CCTV can only capture the evidence on tape as it happens, and help understand the consequences of the actions taken by a small minority.

Universities are adult learning environments, and should be treated as such. CCTV in higher education institutions to some extent is no different than ordinary buildings within the urban environment.

However, CCTV systems in schools can be open to abuse, just like any system whereby a person or selected people are trusted to administer and oversee.

Of course, to install cameras in areas of privacy such as bathrooms and changing rooms is intrusive and the very vast majority would naturally object. However, one could argue that these become safe havens for those who wish to commit crime, such as theft or drug dealing, knowing full well that cameras were not there to catch out suspects.

Though some argue that CCTV should be used 'sparingly' to solve crimes, but should not be used to constantly surveil people as they go about their day to day activities, how can the two not co-exist? CCTV can only be used to help solve crime if it is installed as a preventative measure in the first place.

So arguments go both ways. For and against, and it is clear that the issue remains controversial.

What do you think? Should schools, colleges and/or universities be covered by CCTV, or does it do more harm than good?

Topic: Hardware

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  • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

    They have them here in the U.S., I remember one lady saying she was logging in to watch her kid at school. Seems a little intrusive and overbearing to me. I can understand having cameras in common areas like the reception area, entrances, and the such but not in the classrooms or as you said bathrooms.
    Loverock Davidson
    • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

      @Loverock Davidson

      I can see it being useful in a classroom. I have a sixteen year old delinquent of my own who has been skipping classes. It took the school a full semester to let me know what was going on. If I could peek in and see if she was there then I could correct the problem immediately.
      Test Subject
      • It's the school's fault

        @Test Subject The school should have notified you immediately (well within 24 business hours) as my high school did. Employing big brother doesn't change these habits. Only succesful parenting will, which starts at home.
  • What is it with the Brits and their love affair with Big Brother?

    I have no ethical issues with private corporations employing video surveillance equipment nor do I disagree with the concept of "non privacy" for email content sent and received on corporate computers or mobile devices.

    However, if you Brits wish to become the "YouTube" generation having every waking moment of your lives recorded, than let this seasoned old Yank offer a suggestion.

    America will very shortly employ a "super spy blimp" over the skies of Afghanistan having the ability to record both audio and video information.

    If you Brits wish to pursue your infatuation with 24/7 video surveillance of your citizens, why not purchase one of our spy blimps and park it over London, for example. The infrastructure cost savings would be immense.

    And, at times of international exposure, say at sporting events like your tennis and golf championships, you could just hover one of these "fantastic machines" over those venues and help leverage video coverage costs. Plus, any recorded conversions amongst celebrities attending those functions could be sold to the Guardian or any other gossip tabloids for a considerable sum. Think of the cost benefits for the British Government. You could actually lower taxes because of this added revenue.

    Hey .. just trying to help!
  • Britons are sheep

    For allowing this nonsense in the first place.

    Even the US isn't that intrusive. At least not yet.
    • Britain was dealing with terrorist bombings for decades

      Before Oklahoma City and 9/11, Great Britain was dealing with terrorist bombings by the IRA starting in the 1930's. One might say that they have an even longer heritage than that ...<br><br>"Remember, remember, the 5th of November"
      terry flores
      • Which in turn...

        ...they used as an [b]excuse[/b] to spy on their citizens, who seem to have no problem being tracked by big nanny.

        Besides, now that the Northern Ireland Peace Accords have been signed and the level of violence has dramatically dropped off, you'd think there would be less of this, based on your own rationale. Guess again.
  • Message has been deleted.

  • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

    One thing to remember at colleges and universities is that they are spread out and students, faculty, and staff tend to be on campus all hours of the day. It simply isn't possible to have security guards stationed everywhere all the time, so if cameras act as a deterrent I am all for them. There were more than a few nights where I was nervous walking across a deserted campus.
  • Could it be used against you?

    Those who accept or even like CCTV believe that their personal security is improved by it. Of course, they assume that only the good guys are watching.

    It could be used by an attacker to establish your patterns, your presence, and your vulnerability. That is a considerable reduction in security.

    If there is so much transparency of the public, why not have equal transparency in the use of the surveillance. Let everyone see what is seen, in real time. That makes everyone aware of the practice. Then let us see what everyone thinks about it.
    • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?


      Good point. Unless these things are only limited to faculty, staff and parents (even the parents could be 'bad guys') there is that possibility.
  • Good Idea, Zack

    With CCTV, we would have been able to watch the shootings in Columbine and Virginia Tech in real time. Think of what CNN could have done with that. Instead of parking Wolf Blitzer out in the dark to tell us what they didn't know, there would have been video.
    • You made a point in jest but raised a very important observation


      Consider that all their video surveillance equipment and infrastructure could not prevent their tragic terrorist attacks of recent months. (Although the recorded video did enable the British Government to quickly apprehend those responsible.)

      I would be curious to know if the crime rate has declined in London since their CCTV system has been put in place? Is it cost effective?

      Plus .. and this is the logical "next step" .. I would imagine that with the advent of cheap supercomputers, audio recordings and analysis could be included with video surveillance of public areas. The only reason that audio recordings have not been made has been due to technical and practical considerations. It has nothing to do with the Brits sense of ethics since they already have sanctioned Government video oversight of their lives in public places.

      In fact, I foresee a time in the very near future where the Brits sort of have their own private "Echelon" system monitoring their citizens. Some might call that an example of an all inclusive Government wiretapping program but thats so "old tech". Video and audio surveillance in the name of enhanced security. Gad .. I wouldn't want to live in that environment.
      • Eh, read the news, you're behind by about a generation.


        The Brits have one of the largest domestic intelligence operations in the world. They built it to deal with IRA terrorism, and it has only grown with time and technology. The US has a long way to go to catch up to them.
        terry flores
      • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

        @terry flores

        IRA terrorism was only happening because of the British's own bad actions towards the people of Ireland. If they wouldn't have been treating the Irish as 'second class citizens', the IRA would never have gotten started.
  • Are those cameras in bathrooms yet?

    With government doing the installation and monitoring, it's only a matter of time before cameras will be installed in bathrooms to make sure people aren't wasting water while washing their hands, and nobody is using too much toilet paper (remember, they come from trees) or even stealing that toilet paper. And, we certainly don't want to take a chance that somebody might be using drugs while in that bathroom.

    But, hey, there will be people who can justify that too.
    • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?


      The better justification they will use is to make sure that students are not smoking in the bathrooms/trying to set stuff on fire.
  • RE: Should CCTV be allowed in schools and universities?

    Brit speaking. Not known for being a sheep! (transatlantic translation: "I'm opinionated and outspoken by British standards") And I'm possibly biassed because I never had a big brother - I was one. But I work in a school with CCTV. Emphasis on CC - closed circuit - no visibility outside school, and its output is restricted to senior teaching staff. If you don't trust them, you have bigger problems.
    Ask the pupils.
    The pupils you would be proud to call your kids hang out near the cameras if they sense trouble. The others avoid the cameras - when they remember, which is 'not always'.
    Staff can concentrate their supervision on the areas not covered by cameras.
    I have met a few teachers who have taught in both countries - though none with extensive experience in both. I wonder if whether they say the same thing to both audiences when asked about the atmosphere in state schools?
  • Security is all about making money.

    Governments, corporations and individuals spend billions of dollars/pounds/euros on "security" unfortunately it doesn't stop the crazed gunman from going on a murdurous rampage with the only difference that the blood and guts splatter can be analyzed from 3 different angles in slow motion - and probably eventually by the public on YouTube.
  • Great, a jobs program for pedophiles.

    I bet they'll be lined up around the block to apply for "surveillance technician" jobs at the schools.

    There's actually a law in my state making it a felony to install a hidden camera in a bathroom or locker room. But I guess if the camera isn't hidden and operated by the "surveillance technician" then it's all legal, right?
    terry flores