Subscriber Discussion

Should School Surveillance Footage Be Public?

A Utah man sued a school district to force them to release footage of an altercation between his child and another student. He originally sent a public records request, but it was denied. The school used a law called FERPA that blocks the release of educational records of students to deny the request. The district wanted the man to pay $120 to redact the faces of other children in the video and the man refused (he wanted the complete video), so a judge dismissed the case. Now the man is appealing.

Did he try a FOIA request?

Was the school's reasoning that the very fact of the children's attendance itself is part of their educational record?

The FOIA/public records request was denied. That's why he sued. The school is arguing that video footage is an "educational record" and FERPA blocks the release of those records if it's not your own kids. The counter-argument from journalists and the father is that FERPA was designed with things like report cards in mind ... not surveillance footage.

As long as it for an interested party involving an incedent I don't see why not. I don't think anyone should have access via the web...

This could be a great new tool for those with an axe to grind or a personal score to settle -- unparalleled access to the children of one's chosen target! Parents probably understand better than most that the process of raising a child delivers many teachable moments, and now here's an opportunity for anyone to grab those moments and help them attain even greater public accessibility, perhaps even living forever on youtube!

As for school staff and management, I'm sure they will appreciate having their every step second-guessed by parents (or actually anyone at all) with nothing better to do than criticize, day in, day out. This is a natural extension of recent trends in reality shows -- what a great new sport!

If public access to these videos were to go through, it would not be surprising to see a massive de-installation shortly thereafter.

Because I've used unflattering sarcasm to address legitimate questions on the advisability of reasonable limits to public access of "public" videos, and also having experienced precisely this sort of third party harassment, I'd prefer to remain non-Googlable.

See, I know people (okay, maybe just one or two) who are exactly this sort of vindictive a$$holes that would very probably do this sort of thing given the opportunity, or at least very seriously consider it (seriously enough to be a concern). I think just about everyone here, if you thought about it for a minute, could think of someone you know who would present such a "danger" given access to similar video. Sarcasm notwithstanding, it's a very valid consideration.

That said, I don't see why it should be such a big deal for the school to provide JUST the clip of the altercation in question... or in lieu of providing it to the parents of the students involved, then to the parents' lawyers (who, one would hope, would more tightly control distribution of it).

Well, it isn't like he's requesting the video for funsies. It's potential evidence in a lawsuit (I assume, unless the guy just wants to find out who was standing around laughing as his kid got beat up so he can go and burn their houses down).

having experienced precisely this sort of third party harassment

Third party is of course a relative description and because there are multiple parties who could claimed to be harassed here, I"m not sure precisely where your vitriol is aimed.

Care to share? (if you feel its relevant of course)

Ultimately, isn't student safety really the responsibility of the school administrators?

I'd be curious to find out if this run in between the two students was adressed by the school and in what manner, if it was. Is the parent concerned not enough was done? None of that is clear from the article and it would be difficult to judge the merits of the case from where I'm sitting based on the information provided in the article.

I can understand that a parent should be concerned with the well being of his child, but does that mean he should be allowed to chaperonne his child and accompany him to school everyday, attending classes and going out to the schoolyard to play dodge ball with him at recess and lunchtime, to make sure the school authorities are doing their jobs?

What about journalists? Should they be allowed to run free in public schools?

I would assume those must be have been some of the things the judge considered when he rendered his judgement.