Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spy High: Tweeting the Night Away

Well, this is my first experiment with tweeting a meeting. I was at the Skyline High School PTSO meeting and I tweeted the meeting. (You can follow me at if you like.)
What I've decided to do is paste in my tweets here, and then add some more commentary.

Skyline PTSO meeting starts with a unanimous endorsement of the special ed. millage. Yes!
If you want more information, visit this web site:

Now Sulura Jackson is giving a pitch for security cameras. Says there are fewer community assts. and more students.
If I wondered if this would be a neutral proposal, the answer is now clear--no, it's not.

Says students are in the building after 5 with no adults.
The custodians are there, but of course their job is not student supervision. Students are there, generally, related to after school programs (athletics, theater, robotics...).

Says she read my blog! And wants to address idea of misuse. "Typically" videos are not monitored. (Of course they could be-are pub. record.)
Of course she reads my blog! Doesn't everybody? (Just kidding!) Here she is referring to my comment, in my last post, that in other districts, video cameras have been misused--to "out" kids regarding whom they are kissing; to stalk attractive students; to monitor the actions of racial minorities. So, first of all, I don't find "that will never happen here" to be very convincing, and second of all, the videos are public record. They are FOIA-able.

Says of course we will still have problems.
In other words, they're not going to solve everything. But you already knew that.

Sulura Jackson summarizes it as safe vs. Sorry. I would characterize it as waste of $ and civil rights violation.
In other words, she thinks this will make students and staff safe. I disagree. I think it will give the illusion of safety, but it won't create safety.

Walking a fine line between saying school is safe vs. not safe. Wants to say it is safe now but that it won't be.
Here Ms. Jackson is trying to say that it's safe now, but of course if it is safe now, why do you need surveillance? So then she wants to say that it is unsafe, but wait, she doesn't quite want to say that.

Says school board is the ultimate decider.
I wasn't at the last PTSO meeting, but my friend says she said there that it wouldn't go forward without the support of the PTSO. Now it seems maybe it will go forward in any case? The room seems split.

Funding not in the budget yet and doesn't have an estimate. Doesn't know how much crime went down after Pi/Huron cameras installed.
Here she says the funding is not in the budget. Later she says the funding would come from a "different source," not the general fund. I assume that she means it would come from the building bonds. That might convince me not to vote for those next time. Anyway, if there's building bond money to spend on Skyline, I've got my own wish list. How about removing the banisters from the middle of the stairs so kids can get up and down in time for class? Those were crowded when there were just freshmen in the school! How about getting some BOOKS in the library?! I think there are about 100. (OK, a few more than that, but not many. Try to find a memoir for a class assignment, and good luck with that.)

Parent says at Pioneer crime stayed the same but big fights went down.
This was in response to the question, how did crime change at Pioneer before and after the cameras were put in. This question was first put to Ms. Jackson, who didn't know the answer. Actually, I'm not sure if it was a parent, or the school's police officer, who answered this question.

Wiring at Skyline is already in place.
Presumably this means it would cost less to install the cameras than at Pioneer or Huron. But I'm just guessing there. The square footage might be different.

There is no proposal yet. No policies on how long they last.
Listening to this presentation, I'm having a hard time believing that no proposal has been batted around. The "No policies on how long they last" refers to a question a parent asked as to what the policy would be for how long the video would be kept, and what the policies are at Huron and Pioneer. Ms. Jackson said there was no proposal yet, and she didn't know the policies in the other schools.

Security cameras have not been discussed at a full teacher meeting. Dislikes the term crimes and prefers to call them "code violations."
This was in response to a question about what teachers think. Everyone is using the term crime and Sulura says she dislikes the term.

Wait-we're discussing violating civil rights for "code violations?!" Parent says, are they or aren't they crimes? Ms. Jackson says code viol(ations)--my tweeting characters ran out!
Here is an example of why we "need" security cameras. A student switched the signs of the men's and women's restrooms, causing confusion and in at least one case, embarrassment. This is not a crime, this is a code violation.

Discussing the idea of putting security cameras at Skyline at the PTSO meeting.
I'm getting tweet-happy here, the way radio stations give their call letters.

Parent. If we're talking abt code violations, need to teach students to be citizens. Jackson; doesn't want to be reactive.
Here the parent's point is that if it's not about crime, and it is about "code violations," then this is not about safety, it's about civics. Jackson doesn't want to be reactive.

Student describing gay harrassment. Believes cameras would help but not solve the problem completely.
Now a student is talking about being harrassed because he is gay. This upsets me (and a lot of other people there too!) because I've heard some other stories about LGBT kids being harrassed at Skyline--in fact, that it is the least LGBT-friendly school in the district. I don't know that the school has done a good job bringing in really good speakers and programming on this issue.
However, based on his accounts, I think this harrassment would just move off-camera, if there were cameras. That commonly happens at other schools.

Another tweeter asks me about ethernet in the school and about the foia coordinator for the video footabe.
Liz Margolis is foia coordinator. Question came up of how long video footage is kept. The school is already wired.
(I think she's the foia coordinator. She's the communications director.)

Passionate students. If we react to video isn't that reactive? Students are req'd to be in schools. Crime rate (data provided) very low.
I thought this student had a great point--if you are responding to video, you are still being reactive. Prevention is proactive. The ACLU FOIA'd data about crime rates. They are really low. (No wonder they want to call the issue "code violations!") I'm going to try to figure out if I can upload the data, if I can I'll point you to the right place here.

Parent summarizes statement of Mike Steinberg of @ who says it is a civil rights violation.
That is, that putting in surveillance cameras would be a civil rights violation.

Officer Morales, cameras everywhere. It is a tool to investigate. We don't have time to review & misuse cameras.
Officer Morales is saying that in the greater world, cameras are everywhere, and that he just sees them as a useful tool. He doesn't believe they will be misused because "we don't have time."

Parent: Cameras everywhere, it is reality. Thinks it will help with harassment.
This parent is pro-surveillance cameras.

Ath. Director: he and custodians only one in building here late. Thinks it would help w/ security.
That is the Athletic Director. Goes into the "if it were my child here I'd want cameras here." Honestly, I find that a little patronizing. I have a child here, and I don't want cameras. But I think he might have a child here, and he does! Call it a draw--just don't tell me what I should think. I think most people like to think for themselves.

Jackson: staffing mtg abt more comm assts; funding diff set of funds (I guess bonds); wants to form a committee; if get CAs won't go 4 cams
Ms. Jackson says there is another staffing meeting about adding community assistants--they are the people who patrol the halls. She believes that Skyline will not get additional community assistants even though the school is growing, due to the budget cuts. She sort of implies that if she got the community assistants she wouldn't feel the need to go after the cameras, but another parent (later) told me he got the impression she would go after the surveillance cameras anyway, so I might have mis-tweeted. Anyway she does want to form a committee--apparently of teachers, administrators, students-and then she does add parents after someone asks. She also says she's going to have a "debate" with the students.
I don't actually think she's at all interested in what the parents or students have to say, she's made up her mind. But of course she can't say that.

Refers to Chelsea murder of Piasecki as reason for cameras. That would not have been prevented with cameras!
She says that "all" the comprehensive high schools in the county have cameras except Skyline. (I wonder--is that true?) She says, "Of course" Chelsea has cameras "after what happened." People want to know what happened. She suggests people google it(!). What happened is that the Superintendent was killed, and the principal and the union representative were also shot, by a disgruntled teacher who had been fired (or was being fired?). You can read more about it here. It was tragic, but surveillance cameras wouldn't have made any difference. As she pointed out in the beginning, they're not typically monitored. As a student pointed out, they're typically reactive. There was no question of the identity of the killer, and the killer went to prison. 

Jackson is planning on moving forward with the proposal for video cameras at Skyline.

Just one more addendum--Jackson said that she "couldn't" get the costs without an RFP. That is not true, and what we've seen from our City Council is that RFPs take a whole lot of staff time and pull you very far down a path that you may not want to go down. Sure, if the school board wants to go down that path they can put out an RFP, but way before that some companies could give some ballpark estimates. I think when people see the cost, they might be unhappy.

They should be. Have you seen the interim Superintendent's budget presentation? Find it here

Heck, I'm unhappy already. You can contact the school board at


  1. I'm confused. It seems to me that data from Pioneer and Huron should absolutely be collected, re: whether the cameras have had any influence on crime or behavior or anything, before deciding whether to install. This seems a no-brainer to me.

  2. As a parent of at risk kids, I like the idea of cameras, though all your reasons are so very valid, too.
    To me, the reason for the cameras is because of staff shortages.
    Do they want to monitor staff's comings and goings as well?
    It's reactive to respond to the videos, yes, but the video may help prevent problems, a proactive approach, and that's important if there isn't enough staff, and these days that's the issue.

  3. Not related, but you might want to check your date for the start of the Civil War. I was alive in 1961 and I don't remember it! :)

  4. Anon1, I agree that data would be very helpful.
    Anon2, maybe the data would show whether or not the other surveillance cameras have had any preventive effect. What I heard at the meeting last night informally was that no, they hadn't--in fact that rates of crimes at Pioneer might actually have increased (numbers staying the same, but fewer students in the building). I think everybody--pro or con surveillance cameras--wants kids to be safe, especially at-risk kids.

    And Anon3, thanks for the note! Anon3 is referring to the new sidebar I've put at the top right with upcoming events and little tidbits of information. Do you like it? I've corrected the typo:) For everyone else--there have been lots of good interviews about the Civil War on NPR today.

  5. The data collection may not be that good and the school would have to analyze the data, and I doubt they would present their data to the general public, and hearing informally doesn't count when it comes to data.
    The kids are in a public place, it's fine by me if they have cameras. If the kids are doing what they are supposed to be doing, it shouldn't be a problem.

  6. The data we are talking about are things like crime reports, which the schools collect, and which are public record. The work of schools needs to be data-driven, and surveillance cameras are no exception. This shouldn't be a problem because the schools collect lots of data that is public record.