Roaring Fork Valley schools draft policy for video monitoring

John Stroud
Post Independent Staff

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Use of video surveillance in Roaring Fork District Re-1 schools is on the rise in the name of student safety, which is prompting the school board to establish a policy as to where and how they can be used.

“We have increased the number of cameras in schools across the district in the interest of student safety,” said Re-1 District Superintendent Diana Sirko.

“With that, the board wants to make sure we have a policy in place for how those cameras can be used, how long the information is stored, and who can have access to that information,” she said.

The board has been refining the district policy in recent weeks, and will discuss the latest draft during its regular Aug. 28 meeting. That meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. at Roaring Fork High School in Carbondale.

The Roaring Fork School District includes public schools in Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

Video cameras in Re-1 schools and on school buses to monitor students and the general flow of both students and adults in and out of schools are not new. School security measures in general are also constantly being reviewed, Sirko said.

But the board has not established an official policy regarding the purpose of video cameras and rules for their use until now, she said.

According to the draft policy currently being discussed, “After having weighed carefully and balanced the rights of privacy of students with the district’s duty to promote discipline, health, welfare and safety of staff and students, the board supports the use of video cameras in district schools and on its transportation vehicles.

“Video cameras may be used to monitor student behavior in school facilities and on school vehicles …,” the policy continues.

“Students in violation of conduct rules shall be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with established board policy and regulations governing student conduct and discipline,” it concludes. “Video surveillance shall be used only to promote the order, safety and security of students [and] staff, and to protect district property.”

The policy statement goes on to spell out procedures for records-keeping, storage and security of records and how viewing requests are to be handled.

Video surveillance can not only help with student discipline matters, but also any crimes that are committed in district schools, Sirko said.

Last year, after several items were reported stolen from a girls locker room at Glenwood Springs High School during a volleyball game, police used video records to make an arrest, according to Sirko.

“All of the kids were in the gym at the time, but when they got back it was obvious someone had gone through all their stuff,” she said. “They even took some car keys and a car.”

Sirko stressed that video cameras are not mounted in locker rooms and restrooms, for obvious reasons. But a camera outside the locker room took pictures of two men going in and out of the locker room at the time of the thefts.

“Neither one of them were students, and it was easy for police to put together the information for an arrest,” she said.

In addition to video cameras, the district has been reviewing general safety measures and procedures in school buildings to increase security, including fencing, wiring for intercom systems in modulars and other areas where they were lacking, and buzzer systems to control certain building access points.

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