Letters to the Editor

Your views in 200 words or less

SCHOOLS: Consider using hidden video or audio

Letter by Colin Guthrie, Puyallup on April 26, 2012 at 11:36 am with 57 Comments »
April 26, 2012 11:36 am

Two recent incidences where school staff have shown unprofessional conduct regarding student discipline are very concerning. One was an incident in Olympia where a student was placed in a padded room, and the other incident in New Jersey where classroom teachers were demeaning a student with autism.

I consider each case as unprofessional due to actions of staff members not following professional and positive guidelines regarding discipline and interactions with students. Staff always must refer to parents in regards to what kind of discipline is used and written consent through Adversive Behavior Plans anytime physical contact or isolation is used on students.

Interactions which are demeaning should automatically result in termination and reports sent to Office of Professional Practices within OSPI for certificate disciplinary actions.

It may be time for expanded use of hidden video/audio recordings to assist both parents and teachers to keep interactions appropriate and positive.

Leave a comment Comments → 57
  1. commoncents says:

    Not to minimize what happened to those students but that’s a bit cost prohibitive isn’t it? 2 instances in over 98,000 schools across the country and you want to install cameras with sound in every classroom?

    Now, I’m perfectly aware that there are far more instances of similar behavior (though I don’t believe the “padded” room issue to be all that bad as the door was never shut and the student had full view of an adult at all times) but I would be willing to guess that there are far more instances of students behaving inppropriately and there would be absolutely no repercussions there.

  2. Yes! Lets put hidden camera’s in every public place, so that anything, and anyone, can be monitored at all times! Pretty soon that public camera will be pointed at every front door in america! I know our current monarch would approve, but no thanks, I’ll stick with my constitutional rights to privacy…

  3. commoncents,

    It can work both ways. If students ARE misbehaving, the cameras will spot that too. I have used cameras to do this in classrooms.


    This article describes the increased use of hidden video recordings parents are using to spot trouble. Landon Bryce, a webmaster of TheAutcast, an autism support blog regularly posts articles where students with autism are mistreated by school and agency staff members.

  4. modyfied,

    In a public place, your right to privacy does not exist. Traffic cameras monitor activity, and cameras in stores, schools, and other public spaces are used. If you view you have more privacy rights, these cameras would not exist.

  5. BlaineCGarver says:

    You camera buffs are a bunch of Brownshirts…….

  6. BlaineCGarver,
    Students use their camera phone to do the same thing.

  7. commoncents says:

    cc – I know it’s been done and I know that in those cases where parent felt the need it has usually been justified. I can’t justify the cost based on that relatively low number of offenses. Certainly I can’t even begin to feel the pain that these students must feel and their teachers should be ashamed (as well as fired as you said in your letter) but cost/benefit analysis simply doesn’t pan out.

  8. I’m all for cameras and recording, but they don’t need to be hidden.

    Anyone who wishes to watch the video should be able to do so at the district office.

  9. RLangdon says:

    It’s a little late but “Big Brother is Watching!”

  10. itwasntmethistime says:

    Is it too late to bring back paddling? Although, if we get the kids in line with the paddle there won’t be anything interesting to videotape.

  11. Protecting the kids from teacher bullies, and yes they’re out there, is important, but it should be out in the open. Principals and supervisors should be randomly dropping into classrooms, chatting with students and have their ears to the ground. My concern is that school principals are not attending to one of their most important job — keeping an eye on what’s “really” going on in their building.

  12. cclngthr says:

    The digital audio/video recorder I used in my class was about $65 and it was small enough to be easily hidden, it is a 2×2 inch box that has its own recording unit or it can be wired up to a computer. The camera on it was a high resolution color camera that was able to have a wide angle view of what it was able to pull up. Newer cameras also have a motion/audio sensor which allows the camera to focus on particular subjects or be turned on/off when motion/audio is detected. Windows Media Player in Windows Vista and 7 and Mac OsX also have the capability of using the camera as part of a webcam or other surveillance issue.

    Most schools already have cameras, and the hidden cameras can also be hooked up to that system, or have systems that allow teachers to pull up video in the classroom to control student behavior.

    Hidden cameras are better because you don’t know if they are on/off, and can be remotely controlled. I used the hidden cameras to control student behavior, and when I had misbehavior, it was simple enough to pull in the parent and have both student and parent watch their kid in action.

    Along with this, I also am aware that students themselves have used camera phones to “capture” teacher actions and complain about that. With the teacher controlled cameras, what video was captured by the student can be verified by the teacher controlled camera video. Although I have not personally experienced this, I can see how it would either support or contradict a student created video.

    I prefer to have teachers to pull it up in the classroom, as I was doing.

  13. cclngthr says:

    Paddling is outlawed, and also constitutes as child abuse by school staff and in many countries, parents as well.

  14. cclngthr says:

    Paddling is outlawed, and also constitutes as child abuse by school staff and in many countries, parents as well.

    All you want to do is spank ALL kids because you feel kids learn to act right by spanking them. That only teaches kids to FEAR that adult and the result is that kid won’t do anything for that adult or person.

    Discipline requires adults with a sensible mind to find WHY the kid is acting in the way they do and finding a non-violent solution.

    A friend of mine today told me something about his daughter. She as a kid had wild mood swings and was agressive/mean and frequently lashed out at others for unknown (at the time) reasons. You prefer to spank her? He told me that her doctor diagnosed her with bipolar, a mental illness and is treating her with medication. On the medication, she is acting normally.

  15. “principals are not attending to one of their most important job — keeping an eye on what’s “really” going on in their building.”

    How can they when they have to spend most of their time fund raising and pinching every penny to keep the doors open as a result of the right wing war on education?

  16. Don’t do anything that you don’t want to watch yourself doing on Youtube.

  17. cclngthr says:

    It should be the job of the principal to know what is going on, HOWEVER a lot of the time, particularly with disabled kids, they are directly involved in the misconduct.

    My thoughts exactly. Anything can wind up on Youtube. Once it is on there, there is no way in hell you can control what is done with it. This is my thoughts when I interact with kids, not only in the classroom, but anywhere.

  18. alindasue says:

    My concern is how would the district reconcile using the cameras with parents who refuse to sign permission for their children to be filmed or photographed?

  19. LornaDoone says:

    “classroom teachers were demeaning a student with autism.”

    I know of a former teacher that made light of children with developmental challenges on this forum, just for the pure delight of baiting another commenter who had used the term “short bus”.

    Glass houses….stones…and all that.

    kluwer – thanks for your honest observation. You are correct. And add to that the task of being the strong arm on campus when the little darlings don’t like being disciplined and decide to get physical. The, for your time and trouble, the parents finally get out from in front of the TV and come to your office to complain.

    Just remember the new MO of the conservatives is when they don’t like an analogy or a sidebar issue, that is now called a “troll”. When a conservative lurks a thread and does nothing but complain about other comments, that is “brilliance”.

    And the circle is still round.

  20. LornaDoone says:

    alindasue, I think we all know the answer. It won’t happen, for all the wrong reasons.

  21. took14theteam says:

    Is that what your Son does Larna? Fund raise all the time like klewless said? Cause god knows there is no money from the state and levies and such. Well maybe not from the state cause they have shifted the burden to the property owners to foot the bill, instead of making every resident pay pay bill.

    Maybe ehill can weigh in and help with this. I noticed you got a tingle when he made his first comment in a while….

  22. cclngthr says:

    Implied consent to be photographed or recorded is given whenever the person is in a public space. Whenever you drive on the highway, or go into a store, you automatically give consent to being recorded. A classroom is no different as in any other public space. Schools already use cameras outside the building and in the hallways, and in most computer rooms, therefore permission slips are not needed.

    The only spaces prohibited from camera use is bathrooms or spaces used to change kids, such as the area Doug Stine used to swap diapers on the kids (that back room in his area (which has the kitchen)).

  23. Oh grow up, Lorna. I didn’t make light of kids with disabilities. I made fun of PC absurdity.

  24. The use of cameras in the classroom, for the pure benefit of teacher monitoring the classroom behavior, would be suspect at best. Many students have signed “no video or photography” letter with the school. Hidden surveillance of them would be a violation of their rights.

    What is interesting is the immediate assumption that teachers are at fault. Little credence is given to the misbehavior of the students. Those same students who would video tape teachers would also be the first to complain if video cameras were secretly placed in the classroom. Not to mention any teacher taping kids, regardless of the reason, would immediately be assumed to be a pedophile.

    In these 2 cases, teachers did some really dumb things. Things that they should be disciplined for. But to assume that every teacher is bad is just another example of bad policy. What teacher would want to work in such a system where everything they do is questioned by a public that does not support them?

  25. Frankenchrist says:

    Padded rooms should be reserved for conservatves.

  26. The reality is that teachers are being assigned more students, less help and more students with significant behavioral problems. There are stories of cops handcuffing 5 year olds who have torn things off the wall and wildly assaulted anyone who tried to calm them down.

    Perhaps this is poor parenting combined with less respect/power given to educators to deal directly with these situations but I think that much of this has to do with the various chemicals (pesticides, herbicides, etc.) that developing children are exposed to which have a negative impact upon brain function.

  27. LornaDoone says:

    “Is that what your Son does Larna? Fund raise all the time”

    Who do you think schedules night meetings with the parents and other adults in the district to try to educate them on issues before the elections when levies are up? Do you think he’d leave that up to the conservatives?

    Nothing like being ignorant to knowing what goes on and then trying to skewer someone with your ignorance.

    By the way, you don’t have to capitalize “son”. He is not Jesus.

  28. LornaDoone says:

    “I didn’t make light of kids with disabilities. I made fun of PC absurdity.”

    Oh so your baiting of another commenter was to make light of people that don’t like to see the disabled referred to in negative terms?

    Gosh, I have to “grow up” to reach that level? No thanks.

  29. LornaDoone says:

    “I noticed you got a tingle when he made his first comment in a while….”

    I notice you got annoyed, Larry

  30. spotted1 says:

    So, those in favor of cameras in the classroom would also be in favor of signal light cameras, video taping of protests by the police, and tapes in other public places for the use of catching criminals?

  31. LornaDoone says:

    “Well maybe not from the state cause they have shifted the burden to the property owners to foot the bill, instead of making every resident pay pay bill.”

    I can’t believe someone actually posted this comment. Where is CT7 and his faux embarrassment when we need it?

  32. cclngthr says:


    I checked with an attorney before I started using the hidden camera and he said the law regarding hidden surveillance video/audio stated only ONE person in a party has to consent. The others don’t. Privacy laws only assume that the video or audio is distributed and reproduced for mass viewing.

    Keep in mind students themselves are also using hidden video/audio via cell phone cameras to record what is going on. That too, is legal because the assumption of privacy, particularly in a public space is diminished.

    School buses use video/audio already. If you think each and every kid must have a signed waiver for video/audio who takes the bus, that doesn’t happen.


    Cops handcuffing 5 year olds is a result of the issues which are involved in physical restraint and discipline. We cannot touch a kid at all (for whatever reason) without an adversive behavior plan which describes the childs unwanted behavior and proper restraint technique to be applied after other techniques are used.

    What I actually see here is schools do not want teachers to take pride in their work, and require teachers to take the position where learning is a conveyor belt where learning is a mass produced thing. Kids now are being forced by the school system to learn very quickly and no time is spent on a slower pace regarding topics.

  33. Ortingmom says:

    A. It would be to costly. B. The teachers union would never allow it.

  34. Hidden cameras would most likely protect the teacher. Students would not like their parents seeing what goes on in many classrooms behind the teachers back.

  35. commoncents says:

    CC – you are aware that most schools don’t have their whiteboards hooked up correctly due to the labor costs involved, right? It literally costs more to hook it up than to buy it. Now you are talking about installing cameras in each classroom? And I installing because your original letter specifically only addressed unprofessional teacher conduct which kind of eliminates the whole cheapo hidden camera option.

    I agree that it would have value on protecting both students and teachers but reality says that it would be so cost prohibitive as to make it an impossibility.

  36. BlaineCGarver says:

    What is clear is that teachers are handcuffed by PC horseStuff, and the inmates are running the show.

  37. alindasue says:

    cclngthr said, “Implied consent to be photographed or recorded is given whenever the person is in a public space… A classroom is no different as in any other public space.”

    If that is the case, why do we parents have to sign “consent to photograph” forms at the beginning of each year?

    I have no problem with students and teachers being photographed – a lot can be learned by reviewing actions – but I know some parents do object to it.

  38. LornaDoone says:

    “What is clear is that teachers are handcuffed by PC horseStuff”

    Rude, overbearing parents who won’t discipline their kids has nothing to do with political correctness. The kids that I see get away with the most are those who have parents with enough money to yell “I’ll sue you” at the drop of a hat.

  39. LornaDoone says:

    More malarky from the pastures of the valley near the mountain.

    A friend of mine is a retired teacher, union member, who spent his final years teaching in a disciplinary facility with plenty of cameras. Union leaders didn’t say “boo” about it. Same story, second verse about my son-in-law’s sister.

    When all else fails, make up something about WEA.

  40. cclngthr says:

    The consent to pgotograph forma are when the photograph is reproduced and used in media outlet or other distribution issues. For example, if I were in Kurts classroom and took pictures of the kids, in order to distribute them or use them to show a group of people, your permission would be required.

    In the case of hidden video/audio, that is generally not reproduced for mass viewing. Here, only one group/person has to give consent, which is either the teacher, OR student. A student legally can secretly record events in a classroom with a cell phone camera, and it be unknown to the teacher or school or other students.

    It is not cost prohibitive to install the cameras, the same system can be used with the existing internet connections and networking.

  41. “The teachers union would never allow it”

    Well it had to happen, a thread about schools and a nitwit conservative brings unions, and tries to pin blame on them. Never mind the evil unions have NOTHING to do with what goes on in a classroom.

  42. “What is clear is that teachers are handcuffed by PC horseStuff”

    Tell the lie often enough….

  43. Why use HIDDEN cameras at all?

    Put the camera right there out in the open for everyone to see that they are being recorded.

    Hang a big ol’ flashing sign on it: “Smile! You Are On Candid Camera!”

    Deterrence to prevent bad behavior is a lot less costly than prosecution of bad behavior! More effective too!!!

    When you call a Customer Service phone number and hear the recorded voice stating “Some of our calls are recorded for training purposes.” do you believe that? Don’t! They tell you that up-front so you won’t be abusive to the customer service rep you are talking to, because you will know that if your words are being recorded they can come back on you! You behave better when you know you are being recorded, don’t you? Yes!

    Put the Non-Hidden Camera out there in Plain Sight!!!

  44. P.S. An ounce or PREVENTION is worth a pound of CURE!

    Use visible cameras out in the open to prevent bad behavior, rather than using hidden cameras and secret audio devices to try to TRAP people who would NOT have engaged in that behavior if they had known they were being watched in the first place.

  45. RLangdon,
    Hidden cameras are better, because it allows people to be caught red handed, and also allows catching of bullying behavior that both adults and kids do.

    I want to have people unaware that they are being recorded because their behavior which they think is private is actually public.

  46. cc, I disagree completely with you. Cameras should be out in the open to PREVENT bad behavior, not hidden so as to allow and entrap it.

  47. RLangdon,
    Cameras in the open also prevent people from being themselves and also showing their biases. I want to “discover” people’s biases and personal behavior so I can teach them that their biases are illegal in most cases. Having the cameras in the open does nothing to stop personal and private habits. Hidden cameras will do this effectively because it shows how a person behaves in a true sense.

    A person won’t show that they prefer to discriminate against certain people if they think they are being watched. My hiding the cameras, people will display their biases and discrimination against people, and when they do this, and the hidden camera sees it, I can point out that their biases and discrimination is morally wrong and definately unwanted in public.

    People’s personal behavior also shapes their public behavior. When they have personal biases and discriminatory ideas in private, this ideals also shapes how they react in public and professionally. A teacher who does not want disabled people around will try in their professional life to attempt to degrade disabled students by making it harder for them to succeed and also determines if they should be in a self contained class in a school or be institutionalized.

  48. cc, you have contradicted yourself. Do you realize that?

    “A person won’t show that they prefer to discriminate against certain people if they think they are being watched.”

    “People’s personal behavior also shapes their public behavior.”

  49. spotted1 says:

    cc, I disagree with you on the point that people won’t be themselves. Initially, yes, people will be aware of their behavior and limit innappropriate behavior due to the cameras. However, when cameras are present over time, that “governor” if you will, goes away and people act how they normally act.

    Where the problem will lie is when a parent gets mad that their kid is in trouble based on video evidence and screams it is against their rights. Then the court case will determine any further use of the camera in this manner.

    I am all for cameras in the classroom, known or not. If I am doing something wrong, call me on it. If a kid is wrong, do the same thing.

  50. cclngthr says:

    I did not contradict myself. I said people will change their behavior when the visible camera is present, AND they will not show their biases and discriminatory behavior because of that. I also said that PERSONAL BEHAVIOR shapes their professional behavior, and EVEN IF they present themselves as appropriate with a camera around, their personal judgements reflect in professional/public behavior in a hidden form. Here, the camera forces them to act appropriately because they know they are being watched, but they will opinionate their professional judgements in another form that often results in making (in the classroom) judgements about others that is not true.


    I don’t see that governor as you put it. I’ve used both visible and hidden cameras over time and nearly always see different behavior based on if the camera is seen or hidden.

    I also checked the legal issues before I started doing it. Legally, the classroom is considered a public space, and using cameras in a public space assumes that privacy is reduced because it is an area where everyone can access. The only exception to this is if the video was published in some form. Then the privacy could be violated. If these same parents scream about video evidence, then they better scream about cameras on school buses, cameras in stores, cameras used in the happways, outside a school building, etc.

    I was in a situation where I was teaching a lesson on a health concept, and mentioned it would be covered in a future topic on sex ed. I was being observed by the principal, university supervisor and also had a video recording of it. According to the school and university, I was in the right to cover that area and reference a sex ed topic that I would not be teaching. A parent complained because he thought I was teaching sex ed and he felt, due to my disability, had issues with it (keep in mind here, it is illegal for me to even engage in the activity due to a 2nd degree rape and sexual misconduct law that clearly states that disabled people can be prevented from consenting to it). The state, school and university all stated his biases were illegal and I was in the right to do what I was doing.

    I would use cameras regardless of what other people say.

  51. cc, I reread your comment, and it still seems contradictory to me.

    Can we get a second opinion here?

    Please read cclngthr’s comment above on, APRIL 28, 2012 AT 12:21 PM, and tell us if you think it is contradictory.


  52. RLangdon,

    I don’t see it as contradictory. Public behavior is different than private behavior in a way that is more conciously designed. Private behavior is more unconciously designed, but it integrates public behavior in a limited way. The person does not show biases clearly in public behavior, particularly if they know they can’t show the bias, BUT they do other things which shows biases in a limited way.

  53. cc, Hopefully a third party will weigh in and give us both an objective assessment of your comments.

  54. The use of hidden video and audio would have serious legal issures.

  55. ‘issues.

    Either I need more coffee or I’ve had too much.

  56. xring,

    I already had my attorney look into this, and had another who represents school districts also confirm what my attorney had stated. Parents and school staff already have a legal right to video/audio record in a public space activities that occur in that particular space. Only ONE party needs to consent to the recording, and it is EITHER a student/parent (as in the NJ case) or teacher/school as in the other form which I suggested. A public space is legally defined as an open space that everyone has access to, such as hallways, classrooms, and public spaces in stores, outside. Private spaces are bathrooms, and areas where people dress/undress, such as bedrooms.

    Students also use their cell phones to record activities (several recent articles have used video that was hidden and unknown to many people) and these videos are used for investigative and criminal prosecution.

  57. cc – thank you – no bull but your respnse could be used as an example of how to properly respond.

We welcome comments. Please keep them civil, short and to the point. ALL CAPS, spam, obscene, profane, abusive and off topic comments will be deleted. Repeat offenders will be blocked. Thanks for taking part and abiding by these simple rules.

JavaScript is required to post comments.

Follow the comments on this post with RSS 2.0