Everett schools approve video surveillance rules

The Everett School Board has approved new rules on video surveillance and privacy in preparation for the installation of 400 to 600 digital security cameras in all its schools during the upcoming school year.

The policy calls for the cameras to be placed in public areas, such as parking lots, hallways, and gyms, but not in areas where people expect privacy, such as restrooms and locker rooms.

The new rules also require signs to be posted on school property disclosing the presence of video cameras.

When the video cameras are fully installed in the fall of next year, images from throughout the district can be viewed at a central location in the data center of the district’s new administration building, near Everett Memorial Stadium.

The new surveillance system will be paid for with money from a six-year building repair and technology levy approved by voters in 2010, when $1.2 million was set aside for updated video security systems.

Only district employees, school administrators and law enforcement will be able to log in to the system to view digital images. The goal is to allow quick response to specific security or safety issues, school officials say.

The district anticipates that people may seek access under public records laws to the videos.

Such requests will be considered on a case-by-base basis, according to the document. While the video cameras will create a potentially large amount of public records, it is unclear whether the district’s attorneys will be making the decisions on what to release for every individual request, or whether someone on district staff will be assigned to that task.

The security camera surveillance rules were approved by school board on Tuesday evening on at 2-1 vote. Jeff Russell, school board president, and board member Carol Andrews voted yes, while board member Ed Petersen voted against the proposal. Board members Pam LeSesne and Jessica Olson were absent.

Petersen asked for a delay in approving the guidelines.

The public needs “answers and information. To go ahead and make a decision before they have answers and information is at risk of communicating that we don’t care what they think.”

Russell said he felt that the district is “able to communicate that we take the security of our students and staff that much more seriously, particularly after Sandy Hook.”

Twenty students and six adults were killed during a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in December.

The surveillance cameras also will provide more safety for staff who work late “having to make their way to a parking lot in December when it gets dark early,” Russell said.

The district now has 82 older video-monitoring cameras installed in school hallways and other public areas, most in middle school and high schools.

Cameras previously were installed on many of the school district’s buses. When school opens this fall, another 14 will be added to the buses for a total of 126 video cameras, which also can make audio recordings.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com

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