‘We want our children to be protected:’ zooming in on cameras in classrooms

‘We want our children to be protected:’ zooming in on cameras in classrooms

RED RIVER PARISH, La. (KSLA) - Cutting-edge technology might not be something you associate with Red River Parish, a rural area about an hour south of Shreveport. However, walk inside any of the district’s schools right now, and you’re already on camera.

“There is nothing more important than student safety,” said Alison Hughes, superintendent of Red River Parish Schools. “We’re having to be very diligent about our schools’ safety.”

Over the past ten years, according to Hughes, the district has heavily invested hundreds of high-tech security cameras.

“We have them in entrance ways, we have them in hallways, we have them in gyms, we have them in just about any area of the school a student can be in,” Hughes said.

These cameras are also in every classroom - keeping a close watch on students and teachers alike.

“Our intent is not to make a teacher, nor a student, worry,” Hughes said. “We use it for many other ways to help a teacher grow, we allow teachers to go back...and watch their teaching.”

Hughes said over 300 cameras pepper the district’s schools. As you might guess, this elaborate security operation isn’t cheap. She said each camera costs between $500 and $1,000.

“I just did an upgrade on one of my campuses and it was over $75,000,” she added. “Once you put them in, you’re not done, you have to constantly maintain them.”

The cameras are monitored by the superintendent, as well as the Red River Parish Sheriff’s Office.

“If there’s an emergency situation at one of our campuses, our sheriff’s office has the ability to immediately see what’s going on and assess the situation, while responding,” Hughes added.

KSLA called districts across Northwest Louisiana to discover if any parishes besides Red River utilize security cameras in classrooms. Here are the responses from districts who provided information:

  • Caddo: We don’t have any cameras in classrooms. We do have them in hallways, common areas and parking lots.
  • Bossier: Bossier Schools does have some cameras in SPED (Special Education) rooms, but not in all.
  • Webster: Four schools have cameras
    • Deciding whether to continuing adding cameras next year
  • Claiborne: Cameras in every classroom.
  • Sabine: Cameras on campus, some schools have cameras in classrooms.
  • Bienville: Cameras in every classroom.
  • Natchitoches: Yes, we have a policy and are implementing cameras in classrooms where there are students with exceptionalities.
  • Lincoln: Cameras in all classrooms in high schools and a junior high, as well as two cameras in an elementary school.
    • We have gradually put them in over the past 2-3 years. They are expensive, and we couldn’t do all at one time.

KSLA sat down with Leah Sykes, teacher and mother of three students in Red River Parish. She feels strongly the cameras provide an added level of security for both students and teachers.

“Nobody likes to discuss situations where students may be harmful to the teacher or vice versa,” Sykes said. “I think it ensures safety for both parties.”

But, do these cameras impede on a student’s or teacher’s privacy when they are monitored throughout the day?

Sykes doesn’t think so.

“As a mother, we want our children to be protected, especially when they’re not within our own grasp,” she said. “As a parent, we want that [safety], that’s innate.”

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