$3,000 Per Classroom School Camera System

By Carlton Purvis, Published Apr 16, 2014, 12:00am EDT (Info+)

Cameras in schools are nearly everywhere but inside classrooms? Far less common.

A school district in Michigan paid $3,000 per classroom for a Panasonic based system to provide live-views during emergencies, that could be used in non-emergencies to record classroom lectures. In this note, we review the system components and contract.

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Comments (11)

In Michigan it is illegal to record audio without consent from all parties. It's not clear how these laws would apply to a system like this, but it could potentially mean trouble if someone tries to challenge the audio capability.

I don't think that there will be any successful challenges from the student body though, unless teachers have changed since I was there...

These laws are more generally 'eavesdropping' laws and although usually referenced in the context of making some electronic copy of a conversation, they equally apply to simple interception and disclosure when a party has a reasonable expectation of privacy.

And as this ex-4th grader can attest, in class at least, you are legally subject to interception and disclosure even when you think you have a reasonable expectation of privacy. Though had I thought of it at the time, I'm sure I would have at least offered the law up as a defense, right before my handwritten and carefully folded and private declaration was both 'intercepted' and 'disclosed' to my jeering classmates.

You might be showing your age!

From the best I can gather, kids and parents these days are more interested in protesting against teachers than abiding by instructions.

In all seriousness, though, you have to expect at least one self righteous parent is going to make a stink after their little brat angel is caught misbehaving on their classroom camera system.

I am also curious of the response of teachers, some of whom might protest this as well.

I saw a demo of the Audio Enhancement system. I came away with a whole new insight into what is going on in the classroom. The teachers are demanding video as a way to protect themselves. I even heard one parent say that her child wanted video in the classroom too. Seems classrooms have become dangerous places to work and learn. The system started as an audio enhancement to classroom learning and they have the data to prove it. The video has been added as a multi use tool. The teachers have full control during the day and security can get the surviellance they need at night, including listen-in capabilities.

The camera is a custom panasonic 360 with some visual components added, so everyone can see the status of the cameras use. They put an eyelid type cover to show camera is not in use.

I perdict a camera in every classroom of the future!

It's only tangentially related to this post, but I wonder what effect these anti-eavesdropping statutes have on the use of Lecture Capture Systems. Lecture Capture Systems are becoming increasingly common in university settings. They are starting to work their way down into high school and, as this post demonstrates, junior high and elementary level classrooms. For a university in Michigan, would they need to get explicit consent from every student before they could record lectures? Perhaps they could just notify the students (and/or the students' parents) that the lectures will be recorded and then they could claim that the student attending the lecture constitutes implied consent?

I think students probably already know. Usually the point of the lecture recording is so online students can see the lectures and for in-class students to be able to review them.

In that situation if the students know and no one objects, that would likely be considered implied consent.

Where the heck is the Michigan Teachers Union on this? We have had to pull cameras out of Gyms / Off of stadiums because its considered a "Class Room" and the PSEA (PA State Education Association) will fight tooth and nail to keep cameras out of the Classrooms..

Knowing what we have dealt with here in PA makes this artical just mind blowing....

I think that's the whole premise behind products like SituCam that only activate cameras in the event of an emergency with a panic button or master alarm. However, this seems like a waste of good money to install a camera that seldom gets used.

A high school asked me about the Audio Enhancement's 'SAFE' system, so naturally I had to research it first on IPVM. I was hoping to discover who manufactures their cameras and if anyone had experience specifying or installing this system.

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According to their website, it's a Panasonic fisheye camera. I can't quite read the part number but it looks like this one (9MP X series).

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It is a combination of fisheye cameras as mentioned above as well often a PTZ camera. The PTZ can be aimed at a preset looking at a wall for privacy, but when the panic button is pressed, it moved to another preset.

In the past, there were also housings with a privacy shutter (I think there was a fisheye with the shutter built in to the camera). eliminating the need for a PTZ for privacy.

Essentially, the audio enhancement system is a handheld or pendant mic using line of sight transmission. The panic button is tied to the camera alarm input, as well as to the master control unit in the school office. (Maybe they have upgraded to better network functionality).

Many schools have requirements for in classroom audio, and this was a way to hook cameras/safety/security into the pendant that the teacher wears all day. Also the audio from laptops, etc. can be tied into the speakers for a unified system. Panasonic at the time was trying to be a single source for cameras, audio, laptops, interactive whiteboards, printers, etc.

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