Video Surveillance In Schools

Kerry Goodwin

By Kerry Goodwin, Director of Schools Puget Sound

I am often asked about video surveillance in schools … what can we do, what can’t we do, what should we be aware of… things like that.  Answering these questions will take more than this blog (watch for my upcoming newsletter article on school security cameras), but let’s start here:

Video surveillance in schools consistently brings up a discussion regarding privacy vs security. Some even regard the recorded video images as Educational Property under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), and as such, proprietary property. Others allow police free access to the live video via networks and remote access to school personnel.

It will be important to decide these operations before purchasing and installing. Discussion with board members, and legal department officials can save headaches and problems down the road.

How the system will be used will greatly influence the features and the capabilities your system will need.

Other considerations include whether to have the system operate on an independent network or over the existing network, bandwidth usage is the main concern here. Multiple cameras operating over the existing network may slow down the network operations considerably, or even crash the network. Particularly if megapixel cameras are in use, bandwidth can be sucked up very quickly.

Pan-Tilt-Zoom (PTZ) cameras allow a viewer to adjust the camera view and “zoom-in” on an object. These features can be of great value so long as it fits with the intent of usage. PTZ cameras can cost 3-5 times the investment in fixed cameras, have a higher cost of maintenance and need a live person viewing to be effective. So be certain that matches your intent be fore making this kind of investment.

Video Surveillance is popular and sexy today, but it is important to consider what the decision to use video means to your operations. Unless Video Alarm Monitoring (VAM) is utilized, live monitored video, realize that the video is after the fact and to be useful budgeting will need to include research and investigation. Also budget for the cost of upkeep and maintenance of the system and components, establishing an expectation of video surveillance and then having the system inoperable is more than inconvenient, that situation can lead to litigation.

Do your due diligence, know how you’ll you use the system, what functions and features you’ll need, consider how the images will be viewed, who will view them and when, and consider your storage needs. And don’t forget the maintenance aspect, budget for that up front. Finally, remember you’ll likely be viewing the images some time after the occurrence. If you do all of these (and more) you’ll have a system that will serve you well now and into the future.

More some more information on the subject, check out this article and watch for Sonitrol Pacific’s next “‘Verified’ Safe” school newsletter.