Video Surveillance Rules For School Districts

By: Carlton Purvis, Published on Jul 09, 2013

As surveillance camera use by local governments has increased, so has the public's curiosity regarding how they are regulated. In response, local government's are creating surveillance guidelines to govern how their systems are used. We found a good attempt by a school district in Washington state to establish use and privacy guidelines for surveillance in an educational setting. 

Last week, Everett Public Schools approved a set of privacy rules governing surveillance among its 30 schools. The rules outline procedures for:

  • Location Restrictions
  • Use of Footage
  • Sharing Footage
  • Signage
  • Retention

Restrictions 

The school board says cameras can be placed anywhere where there is not a reasonable expectation of privacy and specifically bars them from being placed in locker rooms and restrooms. It also bars audio from being recorded along with video except on school buses.

Use of Footage

The superintendent must approve any surveillance activities within the district and requestors must explain why they want to use it (along with supporting data) and how long it would be in use. If the reason involves school employees, the human resources department must review the request to make sure it does not violate any collective bargaining agreements. 

The only lawful reasons for using video surveillance recordings, according to the new rules are “promotion of a safe school environment,” employee and student discipline proceedings, protection of district property, “adherence to all district legal and administrative directives” and law enforcement proceedings. Any other purposes must be reviewed by the superintendent.

The district should define what surveillance activities qualify as "promotion of a safe school environment." The phrase is broad and leaves room for interpretation, however this could function as a catch-all for when camera use is necessary, but does not necessarily fall into other categories.

Sharing With the Public

The school district has a duty to protect student privacy, but it also has a duty to make records available to the public. The rules limit live-monitoring to administrators and law enforcement on a need-to-know basis only, however the public can request copies of video recordings using the public records request process. Requests will be granted on a case-by-case basis, the document says. The school district should at least cite possible public records laws exemptions to explain what types of footage would be exempt from disclosure. Despite what some school districts assume, FERPA, which governs release of educational records, may not be enough [link no longer available] to block the release of surveillance footage. For example, in 2005 a New York court decided surveillance tape was not an education record so footage was subject to release. 


Signage

The new rules require signage that lets people know surveillance is in progress and each school year, the district will send students and parents a notice reminding them that certain areas are being monitored. Signage is common for government agencies using surveillance and is already required by some state [link no longer available] and local laws. 

Retention and Effectiveness

Except for video being used in investigations, the district says it "will not maintain recordings for more than 30 days." The guide notes that this does not apply if a law enforcement agency sets up its own surveillance on district property.

System effectiveness will be reviewed on a regular basis, however, the document does not quantify how often that will be or how effectiveness will be measured. 

Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News
Get Notified of Video Surveillance Breaking News

A Guard Dog With No Teeth

One thing the school board missed was establishing procedures for when the rules are broken. The board should also establish clear consequences for when the video system is used inappropriately and designate an agent to handle these cases. 

Background

Everett Public Schools currently has 82 cameras placed in hallways and common areas and has plans to upgrade to a network of 400-600 over the next year (the district provided a copy of the RFP to IPVM and we will review the project details in a later update). Ahead of the upgrades, the school district wanted to set the record straight on acceptable use for surveillance. The board debated and decided that these rules would govern surveillance use district-wide.

A Good Template for other School Districts

Overall this guide looks like a good basis for schools using surveillance systems. It takes a proactive approach to addressing common privacy concerns and surveillance camera use. The main criticisms from both the public and civil liberties groups deal with camera placement, who has access, and retention rates. The Everett School Board created policies that addressed them all. And rarely do you see government agencies in the United States make the process of establishing surveillance rules so open (the rules were reviewed and presented at open school board meetings). If everything works smoothly, then these rules could be effective, however not having a plan for when things do not could be a problem.

Comments (4) : Members only. Login. or Join.

Related Reports

School Touts 3 Benefits of Video Surveillance on Dec 22, 2016
Many think primarily about video surveillance in schools as primarily a security tool and unfortunately as part of a program to respond to school...
Axis Live Privacy Shield Analytics Tested on Jun 25, 2019
Privacy is becoming a bigger factor in video surveillance, driven both by increased public awareness and by GDPR. Now, Axis has released Live...
RealNetworks SAFR Facial Recognition Profile on Sep 25, 2019
RealNetworks entered the surveillance market by giving away their analytics to schools for free, and is now targeting large commercial users with...
IPVM Opens 12,000 Sqft Testing Facility on Dec 16, 2019
IPVM is proud to announce the opening of the world's first video surveillance testing facility that will allow us to significantly expand our...
IPVM Vulnerability Scanner Released / Deprecated on Jun 18, 2018
IPVM is proud to announce video surveillance's first and only cybersecurity vulnerability scanner. This tool allows quickly and simply...
Video Privacy Mask Tutorial on Feb 27, 2018
Privacy has historically been hotly debated in the surveillance industry, especially in public surveillance systems where cameras may be located in...
The HIVIDEO $31 Face Detection DVR Tested on Apr 25, 2019
Face detection in a $31 DVR? That is what "HIVIDEO" (not to be confused with Hikvision, even if the company intends to do that) was promoting at...
Startup SafePass Profile on Oct 19, 2018
A major problem with visitor management is that the systems mostly require adhesive printed paper labels and paper logs, creating waste and an...
Video Surveillance Business 101 on Mar 30, 2020
This report explains the fundamental elements of the video surveillance business for those new to the industry. This is part of our Video...
Convergint Total Recall CrimeEye Product Profile on Jul 11, 2017
Deploying video surveillance in metropolitan areas often brings challenges, including lack of infrastructure or excessive costs to extend...

Most Recent Industry Reports

Startup Duranc Presents AI VSaaS on Jul 06, 2020
Duranc presented its system at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. A 30-minute video from Duranc including IPVM Q&A Background on the...
Low Voltage Nation Wants to "Help You Carve Out A Fulfilling Career" Interviewed on Jul 06, 2020
It is difficult to make your way in this industry as there is little formal schooling. However, one person, Blake Urmos, the Founder of Low Voltage...
The Next Hot Fever Detection Trend - $100 Wall-Mounted Units on Jul 06, 2020
The first wave of the booming fever detecting market was $10,000+ cameras, now interest for ~$2,000 tablets is high and the next big thing may be...
Cisco Meraki Unlocks IP Cameras With RTSP Tested on Jul 06, 2020
Meraki opened up its cameras to 3rd party NVRs/VMSes by offering RTSP streaming because of "the need to solve a business problem". We tested...
Verkada: "IPVM Should Never Be Your Source of News" on Jul 02, 2020
Verkada was unhappy with IPVM's recent coverage declaring that reading IPVM is 'not a good look' and that 'IPVM should never be your source of...
Vintra Presents FulcrumAI Face Recognition on Jul 02, 2020
Vintra presented its FulcrumAI face recognition and mask detection offering at the May 2020 IPVM Startups show. Inside this report: A...
Uniview Wrist Temperature Reader Tested on Jul 02, 2020
Uniview is promoting measuring wrist temperatures whereas most others are just offering forehead or inner canthus measurements. But how well does...
Dahua USA Admits Thermal Solutions "Qualify As Medical Devices" on Jul 02, 2020
Dahua USA has issued a press release admitting a controversial point in the industry but an obvious one to the US FDA, that the thermal temperature...
Access Control Online Show - July 2020 - With 40+ Manufacturers - Register Now on Jul 01, 2020
IPVM is excited to announce our July 2020 Access Control Show. With 40+ companies presenting across 4 days, this is a unique opportunity to hear...