District expands security through video survellance system

Hanna Torline, reporter

After discussions and negotiations that started back in February, and an official decision made by the school board in May, a video surveillance system is in the process of being installed throughout the district.

The school was the first to receive the new cameras, with a total of 103 around the building.

Almost every area of the school, with the exception of restrooms and locker rooms, is within view of the cameras in order to prevent and address issues that may come up on school grounds.

By the end of April 2011, cameras will be installed by the contractor, Midwest Digital, in all district facilities, including middle schools and elementary schools. District consultant Barney Carroll presented the idea to the school board.

“You never know what the cameras will stop from happening in the first place. For the safety of everyone who enters a school building, having these cameras is vital,” Carroll said.

Vital enough to cost the district between $800,000-$900,000, according to district director of administrative services and community relations Alvie Cater. The cameras being installed in the building are the same ones used by the Department of Defense and used in airports.

Despite rumors that the cameras were only purchased because left over construction money had to be spent, that had nothing to do with why the cameras were purchased.

School resource officer John Midiros agrees, that the cameras have been discussed for a while.

“It’s been talked about for a while,” Midiros said.

There have been mixed feelings on whether the cameras are worth the money or not.

“It’s a waste of money, and just unneeded,” junior Sebastian Winchester said. “I don’t think there’s really a need for them.”

On the other hand, freshman Becca Bilyeu feels the benefits may outweigh the costs.

“If they’re here to keep me safe then they’re worth the money spent,” Bilyeu said.

The main goal the district had in mind when installing the cameras was to keep students, administration and patrons safe.

Midiros responded similarly in regards to how the cameras would be used.

“The cameras would be used to review certain incidents and to make kids think twice about what they’re doing,” Midiros said. “We value our property and keeping our school nice, and we want to hold people accountable.”

While the cameras are a new addition to the district, Midiros says most schools in Johnson County have had them for years, making the district one of the last to add security cameras.

Shawnee Mission Northwest SRO Mark Coenen estimates their cameras are used on a daily basis, and not just for catching students committing crimes.

“We catch a lot of things with the cameras, and it really makes our job here easier,” Coenen said. “They are used as a deterrent, and can also be looked at when trying to find a missing student or finding out what happened in a situation.”

Although the cameras have been recording internally since they were installed, Midiros will have a monitor installed in his office, allowing him to see what students are doing. However, the cameras will not be constantly watched.

“They will mainly be there so that if there is an incident, we will be able to go back and review the camera,” Midiros said. “Nobody will be watching the screen like a camera jockey.”

Still, some students are wary of the cameras being watched and recorded.

“I think it’s a violation of privacy,” Winchester said. “I don’t feel comfortable having every move watched. They don’t think we are responsible.”

Sophomore Maddie Estell sees the cameras in a different light.

“I’m not worried about them because I’m not going to do anything that would be a problem,” Estell said.

While the vast majority of outspoken comments from students regarding the cameras have been negative, Coenen gives hope that this attitude may change.

“Most students forget the cameras are here [at SMNW],” Coenen said. “They don’t react to them either way, and I haven’t heard any negative comments.”

With or without student support, the cameras will stay and be used. Security is the first priority for the district.

“Our goal is to provide the safest learning environment possible,” Midiros said. “The new cameras will help us do that.”

(Visited 7 times, 1 visits today)