Bodycams Beginning To Percolate in Schools
- By Dian Schaffhauser
Two school districts are adopting the use of body cameras this fall to record interactions.
Houston Independent School District in Texas will issue the
cameras to members of its police force. At Burlington Community School
District in Iowa the cameras will be worn by principals and other building administrators to capture private meetings with students and
The Iowa decision came this summer after it was requested by a principal in one of its middle schools who was accused of assaulting a
student. Video evidence showed that he hadn't done so; but the current surveillance cameras in use captured only images, not audio, which made
it impossible for the district to investigate accusations of verbal misconduct.
In a statement, the district said the cameras were intended to "protect everyone, while also holding administrators accountable for their
According to news coverage in the
Moines Register, the district purchased 13 cameras for $85 each. The cameras record with a time and date stamp and can be turned on and
off. Before they're turned on to record, the administrator will read a script, informing the person of the intent to record the conversation
and giving him or her the option of declining to be recorded. The district emphasized that files would be retained only for the purposes of
investigation or "as determined by the administrator."
The decision to outfit Houston ISD's police officers with the "body-worn cameras" follows a four-month pilot project in which the devices
were worn by 25 officers. There, the district chose the WatchGuard Video VISTA
high-definition camera. The district has almost 250 police officers and security people on staff.
"As the largest district in the state, we have close to 300 schools, 215,000 students and 28,000 employees that we need to keep safe," said
Police Chief Robert Mock at the time of the pilot on
the district blog. "These
cameras will serve as a vital tool to better monitor school environments, evaluate school incidents and ensure our officers are performing
In a district video Mock noted that the cameras were about the
size of a pager and would be worn on officer lapels. "Any time they approach an incident or something noteworthy, they can turn the camera on
and start recording," he said. "We feel this is a best practice that is a trend across the nation...and we want to be at the forefront of
providing this tool for our officers."
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.