Back To CourseFERPA Training for Educators
3 chapters | 17 lessons
Della has been teaching secondary and adult education for over 20 years. She holds a BS in Sociology, MEd in Reading, and is ABD on the MComm in Storytelling.
Schools are increasingly implementing video monitoring with security cameras to maintain safety among students. While FERPA rules for protecting student privacy do not specifically address surveillance camera usage, schools should have a policy that reflects best practices in order to avoid privacy violations of students. Additionally, videos and photographs may be considered part of a student's educational record and have disclosure rules under FERPA before posting online or sharing with others.
Most commonly, cameras are used in places that are not violations of student privacy like building exteriors and parking lots or hallways and classrooms. Because having bathroom cameras is a clear violation of privacy, these are common locations for bullying and other behavior that violates school rules. Therefore, bathrooms should instead be monitored without using cameras. For example, controversial legislation about bathroom use has resulted in increases in incidents of violent assaults in schools, even though the intention of these misguided laws might have been to protect students from violence.
Sometimes teachers like to use videos and photographs of their students to share with parents to promote engagement and involvement. If these videos are shared online, extra caution should be taken to ensure confidentiality and privacy of the other students in the class. For example, suppose a teacher makes a video of several group presentations and sends those videos to each parent. Because a parent will receive a video with several other students besides their own child, this may represent a violation of FERPA. Certainly, such videos or group photographs should not be posted on the internet through unsecure sites like Facebook. Schools should also send informed consent documents to get permission from parents to photograph or videotape their children.
There are a few basic guidelines for using surveillance cameras in the other common areas of the school. Let's take a look at some of the policies that schools should employ when using cameras in the school.
When using security surveillance cameras in schools, it is important to differentiate who controls that maintains the cameras and video footage. For example, schools that have a law enforcement office on campus occasionally have those officers maintain and monitor the footage. These videos would be considered law enforcement records and not student educational records. If the school decides to use the officer-maintained videos for disciplinary purposes, then that video becomes a FERPA-protected education record. Let's say a school does not have a law enforcement presence, such as a school resource officer, on campus. The video footage and cameras are maintained by school administrators, so those records will also be FERPA-protected education records.
Let's consider an example in which a student commits a crime on campus in full view of the surveillance cameras maintained by the campus police department. If the school chooses to discipline that student for a violation of school rules and that act was also a prosecutable offense, then that becomes part of the student's FERPA-protected education record. In order for local police to use that video footage as evidence of a crime to prosecute that student, then they would need to produce a subpoena or get the student's consent to release that record to the police. However, if the school declines to carry out a disciplinary action on the student for that behavior and the video remains under control of the campus police, then it is a law enforcement record rather than an educational record and the video can be shared with local law enforcement without consent or a subpoena.
Depending on the type of crime, a school may or may not choose to discipline the student for a rule violation in favor of allowing unfettered access to video evidence by the police and prosecutor. In crimes like rape and dating violence, schools actually have more power within their own disciplinary processes to seek safety and justice for a victim than the criminal justice system. Prosecution of drug crimes or fighting is usually easier to get convictions in the courts than gender-based violence. Schools can choose when to use their disciplinary proceedings and require law enforcement to obtain consent or a warrant to access videos according to the best way to help the victim in a case.
In the event there are other students present in a video of an incident resulting in disciplinary action, these students who are not relevant to the incident are not covered under FERPA. Only those students who violate the rules on camera have the right to privacy protection under FERPA. Bystanders and witnesses are considered set dressing for the video because they are not directly involved in an incident that warrants disciplinary response.
In this lesson, we talked about the increasing use of video surveillance technology within schools for safety, security and educational purposes. Because FERPA does not specifically address appropriate use of video footage, extra caution must be taken to avoid violating the privacy rights of students. Obviously, filming in the bathroom should be prohibited as a violation of privacy, although some schools have tried amid severe scrutiny and litigation. Some teachers videotape or photograph students for education or engagement purposes, but should use caution to protect internet sharing and obtain parental consent. Schools using security cameras for surveillance should determine the role and responsibility of each person with access and control over the footage. Some students are uninvolved, and they are the set dressing students in the background. Protocols should also include provisions for identifying a video as unprotected law enforcement records versus protected educational records when an incident involves a crime.
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Back To CourseFERPA Training for Educators
3 chapters | 17 lessons
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