A Camera in the Classroom (K-12)

The K-12 Prompt: A Camera in the Classroom

Ms. Brown is a first-year teacher at a mid-sized suburban high school. As a way to review and improve her teaching skills, the administration has approved placement in her classroom of a video camera that is recording constantly throughout the school day. All of her students and their guardians have been made aware of the camera and have signed an agreement stating that: “the footalge obtained will be used by the classroom teacher to observe, reflect, and improve on her pedagogical methodology.”

Brown has lunchroom monitor duty during her free period each day. After one such period, she returned to classroom to find the door ajar and several student projects damaged, and derogatory language on her chalkboards. The administration was notified of the issue and, upon a brief inquiry, found that none of the surrounding classroom teachers or the hall monitors saw anyone enter or leave her room. An announcement asking for anonymous information from the student body also turned up no leads.

The administration is asking for access to Brown’s videotaped footage in the hopes of identifying the perpetrator(s). Should Brown accede?
[FROM:  http://www.globalethics.org/dilemmas/A-Camera-in-the-Classroom/209/]


43 thoughts on “A Camera in the Classroom (K-12)

  1. Brown has no reason not to allow access to the videotaped footage in the case that she gave prior consent to the installation and placement of the camera in her room as described by Education Code.

    Education Code 51512
    “The Legislature finds that the use by any person, including
    a pupil, of any electronic listening or recording device in any
    classroom of the elementary and secondary schools without the prior
    consent of the teacher and the principal of the school given to
    promote an educational purpose disrupts and impairs the teaching
    process and discipline in the elementary and secondary schools, and
    such use is prohibited. Any person, other than a pupil, who willfully
    violates this section shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
    Any pupil violating this section shall be subject to appropriate
    disciplinary action.
    This section shall not be construed as affecting the powers,
    rights, and liabilities arising from the use of electronic listening
    or recording devices as provided for by any other provision of law.”

    Many school districts have developed board policy which addresses the issue of video surveillance such as Bakersfield City School District’s policy below:

    BP 300.32
    “The governing board recognizes the privacy protections students and adults enjoy on school campuses (California Constitution, Article 1, Section 1). The governing board also recognizes that the California Constitution guarantees all persons the right to attend campuses which are safe, secure, and peaceful (California Constitution, Article 1, Sections 13, and 28).

    Electronic recording devices, such as videocassette recorders and digital video recorders, may have appropriate uses in educational activities within public areas to assist in providing a quality instructional program, promote safety, and to facilitate district operations.

    Whenever the use of electronic recording devices produces a student record, employees shall comply with all law and policy controlling student records (cf., Pupil Records).

    Video surveillance is permitted, within the confines of law and policy, only after it has been reasonably determined such surveillance is necessary to help protect the health and safety of the educational environment. Video surveillance will be limited to the public areas within district property (e.g., school grounds, bus). The use of video surveillance by authorized staff will be preceded by proper notification of affected persons.”

    I do not see the ethical dilemma in this particular case. I say… go forth and watch the videotape!

    • While I believe the video could obviously be used as a lead in the investigation, I do not believe it can be used as the evidence as it more than likely would be inadmissible both in court and in a administrative hearing panel. The ed code stated above (51512) is in regards to prior consent of technology use, which in the case of the vandal, if signage was not posted, the use as evidentiary footage actually not within the ed code here. In addition, this code is really in reference to the use of technology in the classroom during the instructional process which, in this case, also does not apply. Furthermore, as quoted above in reference to board policies and the California Constitution, [“Video surveillance is permitted, within the confines of law and policy, only after it has been reasonably determined such surveillance is necessary to help protect the health and safety of the educational environment. Video surveillance will be limited to the public areas within district property (e.g., school grounds, bus). The use of video surveillance by authorized staff will be preceded by proper notification of affected persons”] supports the fact that the taping cannot be grounds for punishment alone. The fact is that the individual may not have known “surveillance” was taking place, and thus, though it could be used to move the investigation forward, could not be used as evidence in a court of law and more than likely not in an educational disciplinary hearing either.

  2. Hi Jazmine,

    Good job citing both Ed Code and BCSD Board Policy to support your opinion. It seems silly not to use the video footage in this instance, but sometimes the rules that govern schools do not always make sense.

    My first question would revolve around why the video is running during a non-teaching period if the intention of the footage was pedagogical? Moreover, if video surveillance is not standard within the school site, and only 30 or so parents have consented to their children being monitored, then there may be some ethical dilemmas in that the video may unintentionally film underage students who have not received parental consent.

    Lastly, if it wasn’t a student, but a union teacher who was in the room, such secret video surveillance may open up another can of worms….vandalism or not.

    I would suggest not forcing the teacher to turn over the video footage, but instead, call the police and notify school board members. Law enforcement can seize such footage and use it as they wish.

    • Duncan,
      I agree about the process to follow to access the video footage. This is definitely a crime, and law enforcement should be included from the start. In the high school district, we are fortunate to have on site police officers that can expedite such requests. When in doubt, call the police.

    • I agree with much of what was said in this post regarding the situation. First, the camera should not have been recording if it was not instructional time. Second, just because it was recording during non-instructional time, does not mean that the established purpose of the camera and recordings had changed. I believe the only person that should be allowed to view the recording is the teacher, and she should not have to hand it over to administration.
      Since this was an instance of vandalism, law enforcement should be notified and an investigation had. In terms of the students, I think there are ways of getting high school students to talk about what occurred. I’m sure they already are talking about it amongst each other and someone will let something slip. If teachers have developed some sort of relationship with particular students, this may be a way to understand more about what happened.

      • I totally agree with you Amanda. The video should have been off during non instructional time, but if it was the teacher should at least look at it to see what happened. And yes the students are most likely talking to each other and someone knows something. Eventually someone will tell but only if they feel safe without some type of back lash.
        This was a crime and should be handled to the best of the schools ability

  3. This is a scenario that brings me sharply back to my son’s years in elementary school and the pettiness of those parents who considered themselves the magistrates of the school. Because of their socio-economic privilege, they were able to make the daytime PTA meetings and noontime presentations. They would sit around and gossip about the other students and parents in a very unproductive manner.
    As an advocate for what is best for every child in his room, it appears that he has made every effort to help this child assimilate in a way that has not required the child to stifle who they are, but instead to help them learn coping skills for that which causes frustration.
    What you stated is several important considerations: “He is a mandated reporter. He needs to point out his knowledge of this theoretical injustice, lest he be considered part of the conspiracy himself.” The child is to be his first concern. We are to place a child in the least restrictive learning environment.” A parent that cannot understand that is free to remove their child and place them in a private school. However, even private schools have learned that they are not to be pawns of the parents. Again, the needs of the child are to outweigh any other concerns.
    Another statement that was made, “Tom should refrain from making promises to ‘keep secrets’ and ‘not tell’ when parents share information with him. Instead he should clearly communicate his obligation to do what’s best for all students regardless of the circumstances or special interests.” is aptly stated. I have even included in my syllabus to parents and students that I will keep confidentialities only if they do not infringe on the rights and needs of the child. As a credentialed and licensed educator with the state of California, I have made a commitment to certain ethics of behavior.
    It is never easy to do the right thing, but it is of immense importance.

  4. This should be a no not be an issue. Unfortunatley though it just happens to be circumstances that call for the unions lawyers to get involved. She should seek representation from a union advisor and proceed with professional integrity. The outcome of the video surveillance may be examined and used in a way that would undermine her career and reputation. She definitely wants to co-operate, however,when law enforcement is involved have the proper representation in place. Strange things take place in the judicial system.

  5. There are school districts that do not have a teacher’s union. Who should Ms. Brown go to seek advice from then? As a first year teacher, Ms. Brown may not know who to turn to in this case. What I want to find out is if every first year teacher was given this opportunity or were they coerced to having a camera in their rooms. What was the real purpose of the camera in the first place and who initiated the idea? Talking to some veteran colleagues about the situation and getting some legal advice can be helpful and to properly safeguard Ms. Brown’s job.

  6. I believe that, because the guardians approved the videotaping to be available in class, it protects the teacher’s request for instruction. But, I am not confident that she would be protected from parents because film is requested for the time that she was not teaching. Common sense tells me it shouldn’t matter, but things can look very different legally. I agree that there needs to be a lawyer or some representation for the teacher to support her in this situation.

  7. My initial response is the teacher should turn over the video to school officials, but I would inquire on a couple of issues. Does the school have a camera/video policy? Does the district? Are parents formally or informally informed of videotaping on their campus? Our site has a number of working cameras stationed throughout the campus that we utilize to implicate individuals who were involved in violating school rules. We have not issued student consent forms or formally contacted parents explaining the cameras or their usage. We do informally post signs alerting individuals that we have cameras on the premise.

    I could see a parent complaining if the teacher was utilizing the footage from her lectures to punish a student’s behavior. This would be a direct violation of the purpose of the agreement in my eyes, however but the incident happened when the teacher was not present nor were students. I believe the teacher has every right to turn in the footage without any backlash or push back due to a previous agreement. Even if parents complain, I believe the teacher, school and district will be protected.

    • Josh you have made some valid points. Many schools do have surveillance systems and do informally notify people that they may be recorded. It must be noted though that this incident happened in the classroom where there are stricter guidelines pertaining to videotaping of students. Although parents did sign the agreement, it specifically stated that “the footage obtained will be used by the classroom teacher to observe, reflect, and improve on her pedagogical methodology.” This limits to great extent how this video footage can be utilized.

      There is a possibility that the footage can be used to incriminate one of Ms. Brown’s students. Parents can contest that the video footage cannot be used to incriminate their children. If the intent of videotaping was for “pedagogical methodology improvement,” Ms. Brown has no right to videotape during non-instructional times. This would violate the agreement, thus placing Ms. Brown in a difficult situation.

      If the video is obtained by the administration in an illegal manner, it cannot be utilized to discipline the students. Student regardless of their behavior have rights and be assured that there are parents that will legally defend their child even though they have wronged.

  8. This is an interesting ethical dilemma. While this case is written for K-12, it is none-the-less very applicable to higher education as well (in fact, one could argue it is even more so applicable given that many higher education institutions have their own police departments which regularly utilize video surveillance technology).

    At Fresno State, we have a policy that specifically addresses this issue. The Policy on Video Monitoring and Surveillance (APM 648, which can be found at http://www.fresnostate.edu/academics/aps/documents/apm/648.pdf). The policy spells out when and where video recording can take place, the process for authorization, the process for regular review of surveillance, and the process by which video can be reviewed. It also includes safeguards such as the video retention.

    In this case, I believe that the school district needs to implement a written policy. It seems to me that not having a policy opens the school district up to potential for exploitation of the use of the video recording technology. The teacher should not have to make independent decisions each time a request comes in; the decisions should be guided by sound policy with business justifications and purpose.

    Given that the school does not currently have a policy, I would recommend that the teacher deny access to the video. It is important to set a precedent that arbitrary review of footage not connected to the intended purpose of the technology not be casually allowed to occur.

    • Russel, I completely agree with you that a policy must be in place. Such policy would define the guidelines to record people and the appropriate protocol to follow in the use of footage captured. In reviewing Fresno State’s University Policy on Video Monitoring and Surveillance Activities, there is no doubt of what can or cannot occur.

      The policy is specific in outlining the proper guidelines. For our example, the University policy would allow such use of the video under paragraph four of the Temporary Installation of Video Recording Equipment guidelines that specifies: “Cameras or video monitoring devices will not be installed in classroom spaces or faculty offices. Cameras or video monitoring devices installed in teaching laboratories or research laboratories will only be considered when a department or campus organization assigned to use that space follows the guidelines stated in paragraphs one through five on page 648-2.” Such guidelines require proper request specifying use and location of cameras. In addition, it denotes that appropriate approval and authorization by University Administration and University Police Chief must be given. Furthermore, proper information and signage must be provided and posted in areas that may be under surveillance.

      Paragraph four further denotes, “If the police department makes such a request, it must follow the procedure outlined above in paragraphs one through three.” The procedures outlines proper request by University Police Chief, review and approval of such authorization by Vice President for Administration.

      The policy mentioned above are specific and do not give any room for doubt. It’s important for school districts to establish such guidelines. It is also important for such policies to be communicated to all staff, students and parents.

  9. I agree with both Joshua and Russel. The need for policy is present, and makes me wonder what their policies state. This would clearly communicate the use of cameras and the types of videotaping that must be presented to authorities.

  10. The contract does not state that administration cannot view the video and figure out an alternative. I would view the video and identify the students who vandalized the room. I would then ask them where they were at that time, then tell them that hall monitors, teachers, and student anonymous tips have already placed them at the scene during the time where the incident occurred. I would be able to then note specific things that were said that I could recall and say they were overheard discussing, which would pressure them towards a confession. All parties would be questioned separately so they could not influence each other’s responses or know how each other replied. I would leverage each student by stating specifics from the tape and saying that one of the others’ involved already admitted to their involvement. I would use the consequences as an opportunity to teach and change behavior. Isn’t our responsibility to help create productive citizens of society? I feel that finding loopholes to vindicate those who break the rules, goes against everything we’ve committed to do as teachers, administrators, or a society in general. If parents decide to lawyer up and go to battle over this, it’s worth the battle for me; not because I’m worried about disciplining this kid, but because it is my moral obligation to make sure this child does not repeat this mistake.

    Questions I would pose to the responses stating the child should be vindicated are:
    If a teacher was caught on tape breaking the law or school rules, would he/she be protected by the same rational?
    How ethical is it to know the truth of a crime and not use the information known to change the behavior of those students involved? This is not a judicial system, but an ethical responsibility to help students learn from their mistakes.

  11. I think Ms. Brown should allow her administration to have access to the camera footage. Without viewing the footage, Ms. Brown and her administrators may lose an opportunity to learn and reflect on why this incident occurred. We don’t know what happened. All we do know is that this incident was an isolated occurrence and that there were no witnesses. The footage would give the identity of the person responsible, who could possibly be a student in Ms. Brown’s class. Who knows? Perhaps the student was angry over a comment made by Ms. Brown or perhaps he/she was upset over a grade and decided to take retribution. By no means am I condoning the actions of the party responsible, nor am I suggesting that Ms. Brown brought this on herself. I am simply stating that the video footage may be able to lend more insight into the matter. In the process, we may gain more understanding as to why this happened.

    I agree with John’s comments that this is an ethical issue, in which the person responsible (be it a student or otherwise) needs to learn from his/her mistakes and that there are consequences for one’s actions. Viewing the video footage would allow that.

    This scenario reminds me of an incident that occurred at my school site. One of the math teachers’ car was vandalized by a student during the school day. On that particular day, the teacher admitted that he had said some particularly harsh words to some of his students. It may have been a coincidence. We don’t know if his words prompted his student(s) to vandalize his car, or if it was an unrelated incident. The individuals responsible were never caught, but I know that if we had had a camera (surveillance or instructional), my administration team would have no issues viewing it.

  12. I believe that the teacher should allow the video taping to be seen by administrator to see if they can view the this mishap. Obviously, there was a consent signed prior installing the camera in the teacher’s room. Parents were notified and students are made aware. It would only be helpful to view the video to find out who damaged the classroom.
    I remember when I was teaching and a hallway camera caught the person vandalizing our whole wing. It’s the safety of students and staff not who has the camera installed in the room and if that person is willing to share but should share to prevent further damage at the school site.

  13. While there is an ethical component to this issue, we can look to the law to guide our educational decisions.

    In the scenario noted above, there is reasonable suspicion that an education code violation has occurred. The term “reasonable suspicion” has been used and supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in the landmark case New Jersey vs. T.L.O. (U.S. Supreme Court, 1985) that established criteria in which schools can conduct searches related to education code violations. Thus, the school principal has reasonable suspicion that an education code violation has been committed and has the legal right to review the videotape as well as a moral obligation to keep the campus safe. However, as a public relations move, as a courtesy, and prior to conducting the search of the video, the Principal may want to consider drafting a letter describing the parameters of the search related to privacy and reasonable suspicion. The Principal should inform the teacher and send the letter to the parents of the children in the classroom. I would also recommend that the Principal inform the students that there was a video in the class and if needed, will be reviewed. It would be appropriate for the Principal to strongly recommend that the student or students consider coming forward and admitting involvement prior to videotape review.

    • Very impressive, Erin. You knew the ed code for this business. I would have to agree that if there is reasonable suspicion then the teacher should allow the administration to search and use the video taping to prevent further loss.

  14. The fact that a violation of ed code has taken place makes things clear in that the video should be used to identify the culprits. Who knows? It may not even be students who vandalized the classroom. In this case, the best approach would definitely be to have the police investigate the situation thereby having full access to any evidence found in the classroom. Most high schools today have officers in the school which would facilitate access to an investigation.
    I believe the dilemma here is more about whether the teacher should be forced to turn the footage over to the administration. The video camera was first installed for the teacher to use as self-reflection and improvement of her craft. Allowing the administration access to the footage for the purpose of potentially identifying the vandals, also opens the opportunity for administration to access the teaching footage. This could potentially be a violation of the teacher’s rights. There was no mention of the administration having access to observe the teacher in action when the agreement was made to place the camera in the classroom. I believe the teacher has every right to deny turning over the footage to administration.

  15. Ms. Brown has a moral obligation to allow the videotapes to be used in hopes of identifying the perpetrators. I will admit up front that my point of view could be considered slightly tinged since I have worked in corporate risk analysis and security for over 20 years. That being said, I have also been an educator and administrator for about that same period of time.
    The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution prohibits the government, including schools, from conducting unreasonable searches or seizures, however, courts have consistently proven that any surveillance (whether electronic or not) is not covered under this provision due to the fact that the individual can have no reasonable expectation to privacy in a school or classroom setting. If the incident occurred in a restroom or dressing-room then obviously the situation is different. There are some sticky situations when involving any audio recordings as well as which whom the school allows access to the video because of various privacy acts but generally speaking the legal footing to view the video for the purpose of resolving the crime has a solid foothold.
    The scenario only mentions that Ms. Brown’s students and guardians have been notified of the surveillance equipment. Being an eternal optimist I am assuming that administration fulfilled their due diligence by notifying the rest of the community via statements in the handbook and proper video surveillance signage throughout the school. If not, and the student is not one of Ms. Brown’s students, then there could be some maneuvering that needs to take place. If the perpetrator is one of Ms. Brown’s students then obviously the student’s actions dramatically impacted her ability to teach and this would fall under the signed agreement. If the perpetrator is a student who has not signed the agreement or if the perpetrator is someone else such as an administrator, parent, cafeteria worker, or other teacher, then I would handle it slightly different. I would observe the individual(s) responsible and then interview them to obtain a voluntary admission of guilt. I would not use or mention the video in direct terms. Once voluntary, written admission of guilt is obtained then the school can take appropriate actions. I have conducted hundreds of interviews with employees suspected of theft without ever mentioning what I absolutely knew to be true. I simply imply and allow the person who has erred in judgement to make assumptions and admissions.
    Yet I digress, the basic issue here is not one of legal posturing it is simply a matter of good versus evil. I will not bore you with detailed descriptions of the many Supreme Court decisions which affirm the use of video in schools. If you wish to conduct further research you can look at: Gilliard v. Schmidt, Alinovi v. Worcester, Shaul v. Cherry, Plock v. Bd. Of Ed., Brannen v. Bd., Roberts v. Houston, and etc. They are all great reads and having the legal backing of the United States Supreme Court is nice feather to have, but more importantly is in the fact that we as a nation need to get back to empowering our society with strength of character and understanding all that is fair, good, and just in the world in which we live. Is there no longer a divine voice that speaks through us to guide our thoughts and actions? Every year I find the need to tell a story to my students which basically comes from an ancient Chinese Proverb and explains that “There is a good dog and a bad dog fighting within each of us. The one that is going to win is the one we feed the most.” We as educators, including Ms. Brown, have the moral imperative not to slip the bad dog any scraps under the table.
    Some students, parents, and even teachers may disagree with this position but we must be gentle in reminding them to look at the forest through the trees. We need to encourage them to look objectively at the situation and not listen to the voices of doubt; we all know that sometimes even the most resolute can be swayed when the wicked whisper in their ears. We in education should not get so caught up in teaching the educational standards that we neglect our duty to teach societal standards as well. We are charged with helping our students bring our nation into the 21st century. We all want our students to be successful financially but can’t they be successful humanitarians too? When it becomes dog eat dog, the bad dog always wins. Ms. Brown needs not feed this dog, for the next bite it takes could be someone’s hand.
    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” – Edmund Burke

  16. Wow Randy, you really brought some rigor in your post!

    What resonated with me was the fact that there was consent for a camera in the classroom. However, this consent only permitted recording during instructional time, and purposes. In this situation, if you want to go the legal route and try to use the tape to “catch” the students, I would get the authorities involved and explain the situation. I would have them guide me as to what my legal rights are around this video. I would explain to them that I would like to share the video with my administration ethically, but legally, I would weigh my options (since parent consent only gave me permission to record during instructional activity). No one wants to get fired for ignorance.

    On the other hand, if I was the teacher, I would use a restorative conference to help hold the students responsible for their actions. I would review the video tape by myself to identify who was involved. I would then call in their close friends, and the students involved, and ask them questions to help illuminate the exact dynamics that occurred, with the end goal of holding student(s) responsible and making things right. I would frame the conference as I am interviewing the whole school, so that the student(s) do not feel targeted. If the facts did not come out during the conference, I would inform the group that I would be calling law enforcement to take over the investigation. I would add that we have cameras, and other devices that will help us get to the root of the story, but I would rather us all be honest and handle the issue within our school walls.

    The peers of the students involved, will be able to hopefully learn from their friend’s mistake during this process. This is also an opportunity where students who were bystanders can learn what they could have done to prevent their friends from getting in trouble, and help them make better decisions in the future. After the facts have been presented, I would than invite administration, the student(s) guardian(s) (if they have any), the janitor, and other supports to start to brain storm what the students responsible will need to commit to repair the harm they did. I would enforce that mistakes happen, and it is important for us to learn from them. I would develop a contract with the student(s) as a safeguard and protocol to the consequences if this happens again. We would ask the janitor how much time it takes and how much money it cost to clean this classroom, to help the student(s) understand the ripple effect they have caused through one action, and how they can begin to make it right. I would ask the teacher to share how she felt and everyone else in the circle the same thing, so that the student(s) responsible can see the magnitude of one action. During the conference, we can explore what is underneath the misbehavior, and you can offer support to help navigate the student(s) to a more positive path of behavior and motivation.

  17. Randy and Felipe……

    You both raise some every valid questions and concerns. There are two sides of the ledger that must be address; violation of Education Code and violation of Penal code.

    On the Education Code side, school administrators are only restricted from searching students by CA Ed Code 49050, which restricts school officials from removing clothing to conduct searches. CA Ed Code sections 66450-66452 describes restriction of recording of instruction. CA Ed Code 48900 (f) defines a suspendable act for causing or attempting to cause damage to school property.

    As far as the school side, school administrators can utilize any legal means to obtain information for acts that occur on campus. Such legal means could be obtaining and reviewing the classroom video tape, although it was set-up to assist a teacher with instructional practices.

    The legal side has far more restrictions for what they can and cannot do. They must obtain permissions, usually via subpoenas to collect, view, review, and more. They cannot conduct searches without probable cause. They can arrest without parental permission.

    Yes, school officials can and should use the video equipment in the classroom if they believe that it can help them in resolving the issue and identifying the perpetrators. And yes, law enforcement agencies should follow their procedures to obtain the video tape if it assists them in identifying the guilty parties.

    I do not believe this incident has moral conflict or gray areas. The Ed Code and Penal Code are quite clear about what can and cannot happen.

  18. Ms. Brown’s first year teacher status puts her in a vulnerable position due to lack of experience. However, her safety is the most important factor in teaching. If she does not feel safe due to the vandalism then how will she be able to teach district, state, and national mandates?

    Ms. Brown should consider consulting with law enforcement, administration, and her union rep (if none exists, then she has the option to seek council from a local layer who is well versed in education law seeking pro bono council).

    The best decision is an informed one as she moves forward to share or withhold the video with law enforcement and/or administration for her safety and that of her students within the parameters of the law.

    • Yes Victor, an informed decision is the best decision. Understanding what her rights are in regards to videotaping without the consent of individual(s) who commited the vandalism, her rights surrounding complying with the school requests, and her rights to feel safe are all factors to consider before she makes a decision. I’m not aware of the laws surrounding the videotaping, but I have heard some very interesting laws and rights of individuals that can be moved to support those who commit crimes. Looking into all choices and becoming informed would serve her well.

  19. Both Ms. Brown and the administration have previously agreed to have a video camera in the classroom for the purpose of Ms. Brown to observe and self-reflect on her teaching and the strategies she is utilizing in the classroom. Since both parties agreed that the videotapes will serve as a self-reflection, I would argue that it is safe for Ms. Brown to release the videotapes to administration and the police. It is extremely important to find who vandalized her classroom. Both Ms. Brown and the students need to feel safe in school.

  20. Yes, Marilu, agreed that it is important to find out who vandalized Ms. Brown’s classroom and for what reasons. Ms. Brown is using the camera as an instructional tool to build her capacity on her teaching and has received consent for its utilization. My thoughts on penal code and how the police may respond. I’m wondering if they might use the footage for their investigation. Does it supersede ed. code in this instance? Just wondering, it there is existing evidence that might help this investigation other than the video tape? Having law enforcement work with the administrator is the correct path to take initially. Obviously, my initial reaction as Ms. Brown is to look at the footage and find out who did it – yet, we are assuming the video captured the incident, what if it didn’t? Food for thought.

    • I agree with your point of view. We would have to look into the Ed. Code as well as the Penal Code. Also, there is an assumption being made that the camera captured the culprit or culprits. Excellent observation Jesse.

  21. Based on the information provided I would argue that it is Ms. Brown’s best interest to give full access to the video tape. Depending on the amount damaged in her classroom, this case could fall upon law enforcement investigation as well as the school’s. Students can answer to two types of codes, the ed. code or the penal code. Based on this incident, if the vandal was found to be a student, it would fall under both jurisdictions.

    Ms. Brown is also a first year teacher and being a first year teacher with no tenure, the school can let an employee go with cause and without needing to provide a reason on doing so. It is most likely in her best interest to comply with the school as at the end of the day, the case needs to be solved and individuals need to answer to their consequences.

  22. I agree with the statement that “It is in Ms. Brown’s best interest to give full access to the videotape.” While I agree that since Ms. Brown does not have tenure and that the principal can let her go without cause, I disagree that this would be the case since both Ms. Brown and the administrator agreed to have the videotape installed in order for Ms. Brown to self-reflect on her teaching style and make changes as needed.

  23. Interesting discussion! My initial reaction is that Ms. Brown should not release the tapes to the administrator because the purpose of its installation and permissions provide by parents was recording the teacher for reflection purposes. What if it is one of the students in the class, then a parent might be able to say that the recording is entrapment and is being misused. However, if this becomes a criminal investigation based on the extent of the vandalism, I believe the courts or law enforcement can ask for access to the tape anyway and then this is a moot point.
    On the other hand, a valid reason to release the tapes is the safety of the teacher and students. If the person who did this cannot be found then it does create an unsafe environment because the vandal could threaten the safety of a student or staff member next. In that case it would be important and justified to release the tape to the administrator.

  24. The school administration was aware of and authorized the placing of a video camera in the teacher’s classroom. What is unknown is who the video equipment belongs to (teacher personal or school property) and what school authority’s signature was on the consent. I believe these unknowns could play into the decisions made. If only the teacher signed the consent, the agreement is between the teacher and the students/guardians, not administration. The teacher clearly indicated on the consent the scope and purpose of the recording between teacher and student, which did not include the scope of an investigation. However, being that administration gave consent for the video recording and they have a duty to protect and ensure the immediate safety of students and staff, the teacher can keep her commitment to the consent by disagreeing to hand over the videotape. Administration can accept the teacher’s denial and can override and obtain the videotape to conduct the scope of their investigation, especially if no administrator signed the agreement. If the video equipment was the personal property of the teacher, it may not be that easy, unless there was immediate danger to others. I would totally be working with our school resource officer, district office and district legal counsel to coordinate our actions on this case.

  25. This is an interesting conversation and several factors to consider. Initially, similar to Tina, I would think this is obvious, but like she mentioned it becomes more complicated once we begin looking at all the factors. If we look at this situation through the lens of an administrator, Mrs. Brown should share the videotape and allow administration to view the tapes in order to investigate. The video might share pertinent information and be critical evidence in the case. If we look at this situation through the rights of the students (Ed. Code 51512), the school must have prior consent to record students in the educational setting. In this case we would have to consider if the students in the tape were actually the same students who gave consent to be recorded in the lesson. The only way of doing that would be to view the tape. I agree with Suzanne, this situation requires school administration, district office administration and law enforcement to work in coordination with each other. I also believe there is an ethical obligation to use other sources of information to get the individuals to admit guilt ultimately so a restorative approach can be used in this case. The individuals who committed this act should be provided with appropriate interventions to ensure this does not occur again. When taking a restorative approach, staff should facilitate a consequence that is instructional, restorative and reflective. The video tape can be used to identify the individuals who committed the offense, but the real work happens when educational leaders determine appropriate consequences that incorporate a teaching opportunity to ensure property destruction will not continue.

  26. In this scenario, I always tap into our legal counsel. Although the very first comment speaks to Ed Code on cameras, we have a few dilemmas that creates a difficult decision. First, it is important to see what purpose was stated in the consent that parents’ and teachers’ signed. The reason gives us boundaries on how and the purpose the cameras are utilized. If the purpose does include pulling cameras for surveillance of such incidents (in this scenario it seems that the purpose is reflection) then the school could be vulnerable for a lawsuit if the cameras are utilized for a different purpose. Nowadays, consent forms are not open-ended. The consent form, a legal form, need to specify. The decision will fall on the administrator to direct the teacher. Hopefully, they will consult legal before giving a directive.

    • Lupe, I agree with your rationale. Consulting with legal counsel helps us make decisions that we may not otherwise be able to make on our own. I would be hesitant to make a decision to release footage on the premise that we have it. You are correct in that we make ourselves vulnerable to lawsuits if we do not use video for the purpose intended. It would be safe to say that as a school administrator, if in doubt, I always remind myself that I represent the school district and with so many resources at our disposal, there is not excuse not to use what is provided to us and that is resources and legal council.

  27. Amy Williams
    EDL 507
    September 27, 2018

    Ethical Dilemma: Cameras in The Classrooms

    Camera’s in the classroom and on school campuses have positive and negative perspectives. In the ethics dilemma presented in the K-12 prompt, “A Camera in the Classroom”, the initial intent for the use of a camera is positive, as it was designed to improve instruction the teacher’s instructional practices. However, when that footage may need to be used for discipline, or criminal behavior, how do you protect the privacy and rights of those on the film? This creates an ethical dilemma of protecting those that gave consent under one context to having a camera in the classroom and that footage would be recorded and when the need for that footage is outside the context in which consent was given.
    In this dilemma it is unclear if the teacher is reviewing the film with a teacher coach. If this is the case, that individual could review the tape. This would relieve the concern of any evaluative outcomes of the principal or administrators watching the tape. The other option is to have the facilities part of the education house watch the video. These individuals do not participate in any teacher evaluations and therefore would not impact the teacher in anyway. In addition, they are an employee of the school district and are required to maintain the confidentially of the students that were filmed.
    Is there any way given the circumstance to let parents know the reason for footage review and will not be made public and these are the individuals that will be reviewing? Providing parents and the teacher clear information on the intent in review the footage can reassure that their child’s confidentiality will be maintained.
    Much of the debate on cameras in the classroom centers on safety and instructional use versus confidentiality, privacy, and the invasive climate that cameras can create (Walker, 2015). Many suggest the need for transparency and education to stakeholders about the many pro’s and con’s to cameras in the classroom (Walker, 2015) Not only do opinions vary but there are direct regulations or policy that are placed on cameras in the classroom. The California School Board Association addresses cameras in Board Policy (BP) 3515 from the context of surveillance. The BP also addresses the need for schools to ensure a clear process on how footage is accessed, maintained or disposed of.
    The lesson to be learned in this dilemma is the need for wide range thinking on the impact having a camera in the classroom can have. In addition, providing transparent communication to all stakeholders about the benefits and costs to cameras in the classroom.



    Waker, T. (2015). Cameras in the Classroom: Is Big Brother Evaluating You? National
    Education Association Today. January 23, 2015. http://neatoday.org/2015/01/23/cameras-in-the-classroom-big-brother-evaluating/

  28. This is a complex scenario for multiple reasons. The purpose of this camera is specifically to record for improvement of instruction. It is not meant to be a surveillance camera. Why, then, is the camera running when the lessons stop? A skeptic might perceive a nefarious intent that goes beyond recording lessons. What if that classroom is used for teacher meetings, or even union meetings? The National Labor Relations Act specifically prevents union meetings from being taped by administration.

    The Ed Code and the law governing the use of cameras on campus is very specific, and the proper notifications must be given to all affected. Of course, there are things we don’t know about this scenario. All students and their guardians have been made aware of the video recorder, but have all other individuals who enter the room been made aware that there is a recording device? The custodian? Substitute teacher? District Maintenance workers? Student Office aides? Legally, courts have determined there is no reasonable expectation of privacy in common areas of offices or schools, but what about a classroom? If the notification went out only to the parents and their children, the school may be on shaky legal ground in any attempt to provide the tape as evidence in pursuing legal matters against someone. The weak link for the school in this scenario is the restricted notification.

    The perpetrators committed damage to private property and possibly vandalism if the chalkboard is damaged. The district has the right to investigate this matter and suspend the individuals involved for violating EC 48900(f), but I suspect the video recording would be inadmissible due to the restricted notification of the video recording. Lupe said it best…it is wise to get your attorney involved.

    • Ed,
      I agree that the camera should not have been left running. Due to the permissions set forth by the teacher to record instruction, it is not appropriate to be negligent about leaving it on while not teaching. Regardless, the reality is that it now holds evidence for a crime and therefore I believe it should be surrendered to the authorities or school administration. I don’t believe it would be violating the agreement because students were not present at the time of the incident. The footage that includes students should not be made accessible unless parents give consent to do so.
      I have noticed an increase in camera use by school administration in recent years, especially when it comes to disciplinary measures. Although we don’t have cameras in our classrooms, many of our students believe that we do because of the ones we have in the hallways. Additionally, I have filmed a number of teachers providing instruction for submission to their credentialing programs. I believe that this particular teacher may have been overzealous and now finds herself in a difficult situation aside from the vandalism that was committed.

  29. Coming at this from a person unfamiliar with the Ed Code, my perspective may lack depth in the bureaucratic approach of this matter. That said, I too wondered why the camera was left running when no instruction was going on … to me this seemed like it was not being used as intended. As far as using the footage as an investigative tool, whether to implicate or provide leads, I do not see this as an infringement. To me this is a hornet’s nest of technicalities that prevents a simple solution to solving an issue of vandalism. It seems to me that the teacher/district would have to surrender the video to investigators if asked. As for posting that there was a camera on at all times, this is another tricky path … I am not saying I agree that it is right for a camera to be running at all times, I know I would not want to be videoed without knowledge. However, there are many instances where we are ‘filmed’ without us necessarily being warned, an example might be the cameras at certain intersections; they do not necessarily post a sign informing drivers that the cameras are present. Maybe not the best example as the environment of driving on public streets is much different than being on a public school site, however, it does pose a question of doubt as to the legality of being filmed knowingly or not. Every situation has its own layers of ‘right and wrong.’ One possible solution, aside from handing over the film, is to have the teacher view the playback to see if the vandals have been filmed. If the teacher sees the vandalism on her footage, would she be considered a witness to the crime? Where would this scenario go from there? Another interesting dilemma.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.