Inside L-S: Cameras aim to protect students, but have other uses

At the beginning of last school year, some 36 cameras were installed around Lampeter-Strasburg High School. They are intended to be used in the event of an emergency situation, such as an intruder, but have several ancillary uses, including student discipline.
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Mr. Eric Spencer, principal of the high school, says that primarily they are used to ensure safety.

“We were concerned about the security of the building,” he says, noting that particularly without a school resource officer, much of that responsibility falls to administrators, who cannot be everywhere.

Consequently, plans were made to purchase the cameras, and the District took advantage of a grant as well as some of the regularly allocated high school budget to procure the cameras, which Spencer estimates cost somewhere around $30,000 total, although he did not have an exact figure.

Although their primary purpose is in emergency situations -- both intruders and fires -- Spencer acknowledges that they are used in student discipline matters, albeit in a limited fashion.

“We’re not using them to be a big brother,” he says. “A lot of students forget they’re there.”

This can make them a valuable tool to get an unbiased perspective of incidents, such as fights and vandalism, the latter of which Spencer notes has decreased slightly since their installation. Overall, he estimates that he reviews footage from the cameras only a few times each marking period.

Students and staff, however, seem to have a different perspective.

In a survey of seventy two people, including teachers, the L-S community weighed in. Surprisingly, only about 56% of those surveyed actually knew that new cameras were put up, despite an announcement made at the beginning of the year.

With this new knowledge however, only 8% of those same students actually felt safer. With the recent attacks in Paris just beginning to sink into our collective conscience, a few security cameras don’t seem like they will help any in this frightening world to many. In the same vein, 7% of those interviewed said the cameras would cut down on bad behavior (teachers comprise almost all of even that meager statistic).

However, 56% of students believe the administration actually uses these cameras, and about 58% of those surveyed said it was acceptable for the school to put up cameras without their knowledge. This seems odd with so few students actually thinking the cameras will make a difference. And it also seems to be a testament to students’ capacity for forgetfulness (or ignorance) -- administration did discuss them at assemblies to start both this year and last year.

But it could just mean students don’t care enough. They’ll give the knee jerk response that their rights are being infringed, but they certainly don’t care anything about it. It could also mean they grudgingly allow that some measures for security, even if they seem prying, are necessary.

Above all, the stats show that L-S is almost evenly divided on their opinions of individual rights, but united in their opinion of the futility of these measures. Perhaps time will tell if these cameras will have an effect, positive or negative. But all agree that it would be best if these cameras remained as silent onlookers, without a tragedy to record.


Editor's Note: This is the fourth installment of our November Inside L-S series, "Safety and Security". To read the remainder of the series, please visit our Inside L-S page.
--Justin Burkett, LSNews.org Managing Editor and Benjamin Pontz, LSNews.org Editor-In-Chief

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