Surveillance Schools
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Surveillance Schools

Security, Discipline and Control in Contemporary Education

E. Taylor

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eBook - ePub

Surveillance Schools

Security, Discipline and Control in Contemporary Education

E. Taylor

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About This Book

Focusing on the phenomena of the Surveillance School, Taylor examines the increased presence of surveillance technologies and practices which identify, verify, categorise and track pupils, exploring the impact that invasive and continual monitoring is having upon school children.

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Year
2013
ISBN
9781137308863
1
Surveillance Schools: A New Era in Education
Abstract: The school gates have been opened to a variety of surveillance technologies including CCTV, metal detectors, fingerprinting, online monitoring, facial recognition and palm vein scanners. Many have full time uniformed police officers patrolling the corridors and classrooms, they subscribe to random drug testing and use sniffer dogs to search students and their possessions stored in transparent lockers and bags. Analysed within a context of zero tolerance initiatives and fortified school campuses, one has to consider the impact that this is having on children.
Taylor, Emmeline. Surveillance Schools: Security, Discipline and Control in Contemporary Education. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. DOI: 10.1057/9781137308863.
Closed circuit television (CCTV)
Visual surveillance devices such as closed circuit television (CCTV) currently represent the most common manifestation of surveillance technology in schools internationally. In the UK it is estimated that 85 to 90 per cent of schools have CCTV, whereas in the US a 2009–2010 survey found that 84 per cent of high schools, 73 per cent of middle schools and 51 per cent of primary schools used security cameras.1 Asian countries such as the Philippines, China and South Korea are rapidly expanding the use of CCTV in schools, as is Australia. Given the exponential rise in CCTV across the urban landscape,2 it is perhaps not surprising that it has thrived in schools.
In September 2012 Big Brother Watch, a British-based campaign group, published findings on the extent of CCTV usage in schools.3 They issued Freedom of Information (FOI) requests to 4,092 secondary schools requesting details on the total number of cameras on the premises, the number of internal cameras, and the number of cameras inside bathrooms and changing rooms. The FOIs elicited responses from 2,107 schools, 90 per cent of which had CCTV, with an overall average ratio of one camera to every 38 pupils. Some schools had much higher levels of coverage with a ratio of one camera for every five pupils. Extrapolating the findings Big Brother Watch estimated that there were over 100,000 CCTV cameras operating in Secondary schools and Academies in England, Scotland and Wales.4
School CCTV systems are hugely varied. Some schools utilise a handful of strategically placed cameras in specific locations, whereas others have scores of cameras monitoring virtually every area including classrooms, corridors and sports facilities. In the US, as long ago as 1994, it was estimated that a quarter of public schools had CCTV, and that nearly all of these (94 per cent) had CCTV in the classrooms.5 Although less common, some schools have installed fully operative cameras in sensitive locations such as pupil’s toilets. In 2004 the Bog Standard Campaign (aimed at improving school toilets) found that CCTV cameras in student’s toilets in British secondary schools were ‘quite common’ and in 2008, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) estimated 7 per cent of schools in England and Wales had CCTV in the pupil’s toilets. In 2012, Big Brother Watch found that nearly 10 per cent of 2,107 schools responding to their FOI request had CCTV installed in ‘changing rooms and bathrooms’.6 Some schools have generated alarm (as well as police intervention) by inadvertently filming schoolchildren changing clothing for sports activities.7 There are schools using covert cameras, and those that wire their systems directly to the police station.8 Many schools have equipped their CCTV cameras with microphones enabling audio monitoring to accompany visual footage. For example, a number of schools in Greater Manchester, England installed microphones alongside surveillance cameras and required teachers to wear earpieces so that observers could provide live feedback on their teaching delivery and performance.9 Aside from potentially stifling the natural teaching experience, there are clearly legal and ethical issues raised.
Despite a pervasive presumption that CCTV is solely implemented to prevent crime it has found many non-criminal applications such as the invigilation of exams,10 monitoring teaching performance,11 curtailing general ‘horseplay’ and tackling the ‘misuse of paper towels and soap’ in pupils’ toilets.12 A British survey conducted by the ATL found that although 98 per cent of teachers claimed CCTV was installed for security purposes, 50 per cent reported it being used in other ways such as to monitor pupil behaviour.13
CCTV in schools has been esteemed by some as an impartial observer or a ‘guardian of truth’ in a growing litigation age that teachers can draw upon to verify events and elicit the truth. Simply the threat of accessing CCTV footage can operate as a ‘truth serum’ and result in students admitting misdemeanours (see Case Study Box below).
CASE STUDY: IF THE SHOE FITS ... CCTV AS A ‘TRUTH SERUM’14
A primary school in England used its CCTV system, installed in every classroom, the canteen and reception area, to solve the case of a pair of missing shoes. The school bursar explained how CCTV was pivotal in the investigation:
‘Someone hid a child’s shoes and we found it on the tape so we knew where they were and who had hidden them. No one was owning up so we rewound the tape. If the teachers say, “I will rewind the tape” it makes them own up’.
In this way CCTV can be used as a truth serum to elicit honest responses from those under interrogation.
The girl who took the shoes was sent a warning ‘yellow letter’ from the school. Children who get three of these letters are suspended. The mother of the ‘guilty’ girl thought that this use of the surveillance cameras was a disproportionate response to a childish prank.
‘She took the shoes and hid them in a locker. We all do silly things and play jokes when we are children. They should have given her a chance – she’s only eight.’
The case was also brought to the attention of the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) which condemned the response as ‘deeply intrusive’ and raising ‘privacy concerns for teachers, students and their parents’. Furthermore, in a statement the Office added:
‘One person’s prank is another person’s distressing incident. But constant CCTV monitoring of all children in a class cannot be justified with reference to the need to address classroom disruption.’
This case highlights the intrinsic function creep that is set in motion once surveillance mechanisms are installed. The temptation to apply them to a forever widening scope of phenomena often proves too hard to resist and further embeds surveillance as the default response to discipline and control. In addition, the case highlights the inability of the ICO and the Data Protection Act 1998 that it is tasked to enforce, to regulate the inappropriate usage of CCTV and other surveillance equipment.
Pupils have collectively mobilized themselves in protest against the installation of CCTV cameras in their classrooms. For example, students at a school in Waltham Forest, United Kingdom walked out of their school following the introduction of CCTV because they felt it threatened their civil liberties. The pupils refused to return until they had received assurances that it had been turned off. Furthermore, upon their return to the school, the pupils wore masks to continue their protest. In other cases individuals have refused to return to the school until CCTV cameras have been removed from pupils’ toilets.
Inside the school, children have resisted CCTV in three main ways: avoidance of areas monitored by CCTV cameras; restricting the ability of the CCTV cameras to identify them; and thirdly, by repositioning the cameras so they were no longer monitoring their behaviour.15 However, avoidance of, or interference with the cameras has been taken to be harmless and humorous subversions of the operation of the CCTV within the school. Rather than a product of malice or criminal intention, it has been considered as a playful expression of rebellion that is common amongst young people and can be likened to relatively trivial activities performed by a boisterous minority in schools such as scrawling a name on a desk or experimenting with the boundaries of the school uniform. Resistance is explored in greater detail in Chapter 3.
Despite the proliferation of CCTV, whether in schools, shopping malls or the cityscape, there is no concrete evidence to suggest that it is the panacea to the myriad problems it has been introduced to tackle.16 CCTV evaluations conducted hitherto have provided mixed and often contradictory findings but the expansion of CCTV has continued unperturbed. In terms of schools, there has not been any reliable independent research conducted to assess whether CCTV can or does reduce incidents of crime, bullying or any of the other objectives it is presumed to assist with. In a sense it doesn’t matter whether CCTV is effective or not since its appeal lies in the commonsense perception that it must do something, and at times of heightened anxiety surrounding school safety, somethin...

Table of contents

  1. Cover
  2. Title
  3. Introduction
  4. 1  Surveillance Schools: A New Era in Education
  5. 2  Visions of Control: A Case Study on School CCTV
  6. 3  Lessons in Submission? The Societal Impacts of Surveillance Schools
  7. 4  Panoptic Pedagogy and the Political Economy of Surveillance Schools
  8. Conclusion
  9. Bibliography
  10. Index