Schools eye monitoring policy

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By Jesef Williams

Guidelines about how surveillance is to be used in local schools and who has access to it will soon be much clearer.

The Lancaster County school board unanimously passed first reading of a policy Tuesday night that explains how surveillance equipment will be used inside the schools.

"I consider it something we need to provide to ensure safety for the students," board member Mary Etta Taylor said. "I see it as protection for the students."

Regarding privacy issues and who can access recordings, the district relies on the Federal Education Privacy Act and the Freedom of Information Act. The district's proposed policy pulls elements from both acts, as well as other surveillance policies used in other school districts.

"If we're going to use surveillance, we need to make people aware that we have a policy in place and have a protocol," said Bryan Vaughn, the district's director of safety and transportation.

The draft reads that surveillance equipment can be placed in public spaces such as meeting rooms, hallways, parking lots and schools buses. Recordings made by the district are the exclusive property of the district.

The proposed policy says third parties, such as parents and the media, may request to review a recording, and that it's up to school administration to permit review.

The policy would require schools to remind students, parents and others annually that they are subject to being recorded in public places.

The word "recording" is used throughout the proposed policy, rather than "videotape," to include other types of recording devices, such as cell phones.

The proposed policy also explains reporting violations, penalties for improper use and the use of recordings in disciplinary proceedings.

A proposed policy has to pass twice in order to be adopted. The school board will vote on second reading at its Feb. 19 meeting.

Contact Jesef Williams at 283-1152 or jwilliams@thelancasternews.com