May 172012
 
 May 17, 2012  Surveillance, U.S., Youth & Schools

Craig Civale reports:

The United Educators Association in Fort Worth is encouraging its 20,000 members to use camera phones to deal with unruly students inside the classroom.

It’s a controversial subject that most North Texas school districts say they haven’t had to deal with, but with technology creeping into the classrooms, some say it’s only a matter of time.

“A classroom is not an expectation of privacy… that’s a public forum anybody can walk in, walk out… not an expectation of privacy,” said UEA executive director Larry Shaw.

Read more on WFAA.

So… fast forward, so to speak… the district starts recording what goes on in classrooms. For how long are the tapes retained before they are rolled over? Will students who claim they are being harassed by peers or staff be able to use the recordings to prove their claims? Will the recordings be used to discipline staff who don’t do their jobs well?

And more importantly, what happens to the notion of intellectual freedom and curiosity? Will students feel comfortable raising unpopular thoughts or questions if they know they are being recorded?

If Texas is having such significant problems with unruly students, investing in recording equipment doesn’t sound like a prudent investment of resources. I will bet you that most classrooms do not have token economies or behavior plans in place and that most teachers have not been adequately trained or supported in how to manage behavior – or how to recognize the signs and symptoms of disorders that need treatment or accommodation. Are research-validated building-wide interventions and programs to promote appropriate behavior even in place? And have they asked the teachers whose students are not unruly to serve as master teachers to help train their colleagues in successful techniques and strategies?

Cameras in the classroom will not reduce unruly behavior. They will only record it. I would hope Texas educators can be more creative in proactively preventing problem behavior.

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