School Cameras: Safety, Security, or Surveillance?

By Madilyn Ruiter

Ever feel like you’re being watched? That might be because, at Lamoille Union High School, the camera footage is viewed every couple of weeks, or sometimes even multiple times a day.

There are 73 cameras around the high school. According to LUHS Vice principal, Dana Jewett, those schools cameras are used for clarification after an incident, either to prove innocence of students or to enact disciplinary actions. 

Jewett also stated that the footage is only allowed to be viewed by the administration of LUHS. Students are never allowed to see the footage that is recorded.

This issue arose in 2017 when Vermont television station WCAX covered the efforts of parents to see camera footage of an incident that had occurred at LUHS. 

In addition to the limits on student viewing, Jewett added that the school’s IT department rarely see the footage, and any police department needs a court order to obtain the footage.

The school’s camera system is comprehensive, and it might be getting an upgrade. According to the district’s Facility Director, Dylan LaFlam, the school is “looking at upgrading our current system.” LaFlam said that the current cameras are at the end of their life in 2021.

Why do the cameras need to be upgraded? LaFlam said that the cameras in LUHS are from four different eras and they don’t work very well together. 

The upgrade would consist of adding cameras to spaces that are not covered. The number of cameras would go from 73 cameras to 100 cameras.

The upgrades are in the early stages. Laflam said that LUHS has contracted with the Royal Group to upgrade the system. The Royal Group is planned to come in and inventory the current system.

The expenses to replace the cameras would be high. To rip out all the cameras and the wiring infrastructure and replace everything it would cost an estimated $250,000-$500,000, according to LaFlam. 

Because that cost is high, the school plans to just replace the cameras and keep the same wiring infrastructure in place. Those more minimal upgrades would cost an estimated $75,000-$100,000. LUHS is planning on doing this over the next five years, according to LaFlam. 

When asked about the worthiness of spending this much money on cameras LaFlam said that it depends on who you are. “I don’t see the benefit to it, it cost facilities a lot of money and it’s a lot of maintenance. That being said I’m not the end user.”

When asked about the school’s surveillance system Clayton Sargent, a sophomore at LUHS said, “I think it’s necessary to survey the school.” 

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