School district tightens up video surveillance

Proposed new policy also covers cameras on buses

School District 54 is updating its video surveillance policy and is seeking public comment. (File photo)

School District 54 is updating its video surveillance policy and is seeking public comment. (File photo)

School District 54 has tightened up its video surveillance policy in response to changes to the provincial Freedom of Information and Privacy Protection Act.

A revision, now out for public comment before official adoption, is far more specific about how the use of video cameras must be compatible with the act compared to the policy it is intended to replace.

The intended replacement policy is also longer — three and a half pages compared to the current one-pager.

“We have been upgrading the camera systems lately which has also prompted the updating of the policy,” explained school district secretary treasurer Dave Margerm.

The policy that will be replaced was adopted in May 2000.

“Camera systems have been helpful in investigating unauthorized entry, acts of violence, theft, vandalism, etc.,” said Margerm.

“Updated language defines items such as implementation, installation, notification, operation, security, access, retention and destruction of video surveillance,” he said.

Whereas the current policy does not need the district to indicate why video cameras are being considered, the proposed new policy requires a report citing “any specific incidents of property loss, safety or security breaches justifying the implementation of surveillance, identifying any less intrusive alternatives that have been considered and why they would not be an adequate alternative to surveillance ……”

And when video surveillance is authorized, “the school district will ensure that affected staff, students, volunteers and the public are notified of surveillance equipment locations and the purposes for using video surveillance,” indicates the proposed new policy.

As with the current policy, the new one indicates footage will usually be erased within one month, adding “except as required by law or unless they are being retained for documentation related to a specific incident.”

The proposed new policy also addresses video cameras on buses, saying they would “identify, respond to and investigate safety issues” both inside a bus and exterior to the bus.

“Cameras may capture images of students boarding and disembarking and the lawful or unlawful actions of drivers travelling in close proximity to school buses,” the proposed policy emphasizes.

The proposed new policy can be viewed on the school district’s website and it is taking public comment on its provisions until June 9.