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Harwood board proposes 24/7 surveillance

The Harwood Union School Board has voted to have video cameras inside the school running 24/7 rather than only during after-school hours and wants the public to weigh in on that proposed policy.

The issue of how much surveillance should occur at the school was discussed by the board last month and board members are hopeful that the public will weigh in at the next board meeting on October 16.

The school installed eight cameras inside the school last summer and when school started last month the cameras were turned off during the school day and turned on after 4:30 p.m.

Last month the board met on September 18 to review a proposed video surveillance policy written by board member David Goodman, the Waterbury representative to the board. In June, the board adopted an interim video policy that called for the video cameras within the school to be operational only after 4:30 p.m.

The external cameras at Harwood Union are operational 24/7.

Goodman told the board that the policy he drafted for HU was based on the policies of other area high schools as well as a proposed policy from the Americans for Civil Liberties Union along with HU's existing policy for video recording on school buses.

He told the board that he felt the policy as he'd written it struck a good balance.

"It expresses that we have some level of trust that people in the building will conduct themselves appropriately," Goodman told the board.

During the discussion of the proposed policy, board member Dan Raddock, the Warren representative to the board, asked about specific placement of the cameras and was told that the administration does not want the wording on location to be too clear so that students and others wouldn't know exactly where the cameras are.

Board members changed proposed language about places where cameras won't be operated to spell out that they won't be installed in classrooms, restrooms, athletic locker facilities and staff rooms.

School principals Amy Rex and Lisa Atwood, along with Washington West Supervisory Union superintendent Brigid Scheffert, favored 24/7 recording inside the school for both its preventive effect but also as a means to solve problems that have arisen and when school officials have exhausted all other means to determine what happened to a student or the building.

Board member Raddock made the motion to change the language about hours of operation from after school only to 24/7 which board member Stephen Sands seconded.

The final vote to adopt all suggested amendments to the draft passed. The weighted vote was as follows: Deb Hunter, Moretown (4); Dan Raddock, Warren (4); Stephen Sands, Waitsfield (4); Russ Beilke, Fayston (3); and Chris Koliba, Duxbury (3), in favor. David Goodman, Waterbury (6), was the opposing vote. The motion passed 18 to 6.

Board members want to hear from the public about the proposed policy either at the meeting next week or via email prior to it. Contact information can be found at harwoodunion.com/harwood2013.

Beyond hours of operation, other details of the surveillance policy are as follows:

It is the policy of the Harwood Union Middle/High School to use security cameras, the purpose of which is primarily to protect school district property and assets from theft and vandalism, through deterrence and video documentation. The system is not designed nor intended to protect individuals from being victims of violent or property crimes, nor to detect other potentially illegal or undesirable activities which may occur, although any information obtained may be used as evidence in such cases. The use of security cameras shall be conducted in a professional, ethical and legal manner, and recorded data shall be handled in compliance with the Family Education and Rights to Privacy Act (FERPA) where it applies, and according to the following criteria:

- Cameras may be installed in both interior and exterior areas where there is a legitimate need for video surveillance. Cameras may not be installed in classrooms, restrooms, athletic locker facilities, and staff room.

-Written notification of the use of the security camera system will be provided to all students, staff and parents on an annual basis. There shall be an emphasis on the fact that the camera system is for review of past activities and that it is not monitored on a continuous basis except for the front door camera. In addition, clear and prominently displayed signage as to the presence of the cameras and the lack of continuous monitoring shall be posted at the three main entrances.

-All recorded "footage" is to be considered confidential and is to be viewed only on an "as needed" basis by those individuals authorized herein, and in compliance with Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).

-Recordings shall be stored in a secure location as designated in writing by the superintendent. This custody shall not be delegated.

-Recordings can only be reviewed by the direct authorization of the superintendent or his/her designee and in the presence of a Harwood Union principal and/or the superintendent. With the exception of the front door camera which will be monitored in the front office, images shall not be viewed in "real time" (i.e., as captured by the cameras) unless an imminent health or safety threat is present, as determined by an administrator. Any review of recordings shall be reported to the Harwood Union School Board with an explanation as to the reason for review and who reviewed the recordings.

- The cameras utilize digital media for recording. Recordings shall be retained for 30 days from the date of recording. After the 30-day holding period, and if no request has been made to view a recording, the recording shall be deleted, destroyed, or the media reused.
Exceptions
a. Recordings made between the last day of school and the first day of school may be retained until September 15.
b. If a notable incident is identified by any administrators, the superintendent shall be notified and the recording shall be kept until the final resolution, including appeals. Recordings that become documentation in a case with findings shall be kept indefinitely.

- The front door camera will be monitored and viewed in real time by an authorized staff member in the front office. Requests to view recordings must be made by the Harwood Union principal to the superintendent. Recordings shall be viewed only by those expressly authorized in writing by the superintendent or his/her designee, and in the presence of the superintendent or a Harwood Union principal.

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