FCPS debates more security cameras

FCPS+debates+more+security+cameras

FCPS high school principals recently proposed an expansion of video surveillance cameras to indoor areas of schools, such as cafeterias and hallways, to improve the general safety and security of school campuses.

The principals hope to deter food fights with this proposal, a major problem that occurred last school year at several FCPS schools. West Springfield HS, in particular, had a food fight involving over 100 students and took a total of eight hours to clean up. Though school officials were able to point out and discipline students for this circumstance, there have been other food fights, where there was no evidence as to who started them.

The principals also hope to reduce bullying, vandalism, drug dealing, and requiring staff to spend time supervising student behavior in the halls.

“I’m thinking about safe security of our students and teachers; that’s the first thing I have on my mind,” Principal Vince Randazzo said. Randazzo addressed the leadership class on September 28 about the possibility of receiving more security cameras. He is looking at this issue through the lense of his former job before he began his career in education, a detective for major crimes in the Mason District.

On the other hand, Randazzo does not think this issue is solely about food fights, but more about the general security of the schools.

“I’m really disappointed that the media has turned this into something all about food fights,” Randazzo said to the leadership class.

There are currently 372 exterior cameras among 30 FCPS schools, not including school bus cameras. The school board will vote in November on either maintaining the current amount of cameras, putting cameras in cafeterias and main hallways, or putting them across the entire school, with the exception of classrooms.

According to the Fairfax Times, installing cameras in cafeterias will cost around $8,000 per school. It would be approximately $120,000 per school to add cameras school-wide.

“I think surveillance cameras are important for a large school with a large student body,” Special Education teacher Darleen Tran, who sometimes guards the halls during students’ lunch period, said. “Students will be prevented from acting out, and these cameras will save me some time from sitting here [outside of the cafeteria during lunch].”

Some students also support this new measure.

“Last year in my history class, I left my book bag on the floor and my backpack was found unzipped with money and my debit card gone,” junior Jennifer Lemus said. “I think it’s [surveillance cameras] a good idea. It will reduce problems, and you will be able to catch students doing bad things such as stealing.”

Though there will be no cameras placed in areas such as bathrooms and locker rooms, a big debate amongst school officials, students and even parents is whether or not this proposal invades student privacy.

“I don’t think it would invade student privacy, unless if there is sound on the camera, then it does affect student privacy, because you can hear everything about what they are saying,” Lemus said.

“I think they shouldn’t have cameras because what if a student isn’t guilty but it looks like them on the camera,” sophomore Julio Mendieta-Arauz said. “That student would get in trouble for that, when they’re innocent. Also school officials will have too much power [with these cameras] and try to abuse it.”

All of the high school principals are in favor of this proposal, and the school board will make a decision based off of their three different levels of options.

By Dana Filipczyk
Staff Writer
Annie Curran and Nikki Contrino contributed to this report.