Newhall board to look at policy for video surveillance

The Newhall School District Office. Dan Watson/The Signal
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With the addition of security cameras at several Newhall School District sites, the district is expected Tuesday to review its procedures for keeping students and staff safe on campus.

A revised board policy relates entirely to video cameras and surveillance, which one of several measures to improve safety at all 10 school sites.

“Obviously, we hope it (video surveillance) has a positive impact… We do have vandalism from time to time on the campuses so hopefully this will help mitigate that having the cameras up there,” Governing Board President Phil Ellis said. “Hopefully, this will help alleviate off-hours vandalism and any untoward actions to the schools.”

The policy change authorizes the district to use cameras or other surveillance equipment on district property.

These cameras may be placed in school entrances, exits, interior hallways, lobbies, foyers, athletic fields, exterior campus areas, outdoor facilities, parking lots, fields, courtyards, walkways, auditoriums and school buses; however, they cannot be placed in any areas where students, staff or community members have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” like restrooms or changing areas.

Video cameras may be placed in classrooms or office spaces, but this placement must be approved by the school’s teacher, principal and superintendent, and a written notice must be posted in a visible place to alert the community of the cameras in use.

The cameras may be set to records 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and will have no maximum or minimum storage time for saving recordings.

These recordings will be the property of the Newhall district and may be used in disciplinary, administrative, civil or criminal proceedings against students, employees, parents/guardians or other individuals, according to the policy.

The recordings are also considered “student records” under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA).  Recordings must follow student records and guidelines for public requests for information and may only be viewed by employees, parents, and/or students whose images are on the video.

Safety Resolution

To help promote students’ mental and physical health and personal growth, the Governing Board is also expected to adopt a resolution calling for student safety in California’s public schools.

“Student safety is a prerequisite for consistently high levels of academic and social development,” the resolution read. “Violence and harassment can not only alienate students from their peers and their environment, thereby impeding learning but also cause injuries and fatalities.”

A May 2017 study from the National Center for Education Statistics found that 21 percent of students aged 12 to 18 said they were bullied at school.  It also found that, at the same time, 16 percent of high school students reported carrying a weapon at any point during the previous 30 days and 4 percent reported carrying a weapon on campus during the previous 30 days.

This threat of gun violence poses a danger to the lives of students, teachers and staff, and can expose children to trauma that can adversely affect their health for the rest of their lives, according to the resolution.

To decrease this threat and to promote the creation of safe school environments, the resolution calls for a comprehensive, coordinated effort to create schoolwide, districtwide and communitywide strategies that are supported by legislation and resources at the state and federal level.

“The Newhall School District supports the right of students and staff to attend schools that are safe and free from violence and harassment, especially life-threatening forms of violence,” the resolution read.

The resolution also calls on the state legislature and the U.S. Congress to invest in services and staff, like counselors and psychologists, who work to prevent bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence.

“Any new funding would help to support new counselors,” Ellis said. “With all the issues we’ve seen with safety, counselor have a big impact. And even without those issues, we’ve seen how our counselors that we do have benefit the student lives.”

The resolution also calls on Congress to pass legislation to reduce the risk of gun violence on school campuses and “implement common sense measures” that prioritize student safety.

“We have a board have not discussed that, I can’t say what the board’s push on that would be other than the extent that it’s non-inflammatory and things like that,” Ellis said. “If anyone sees concerns with the resolution, we will make some changes.”

To support safety at the district-level, Newhall has held regular drills, completed emergency plans and reviewed school site discipline roles and procedures.

“Fortunately we’re not just reacting to what’s going on, we’re proactively pushing for safety,” Ellis said. “We have to make parents and students, primarily, feel comfortable and provide them with a safe learning environment.”

Additional Agenda Items:

  • Hear a presentation about the district’s preschool program
  • Recognize James Hicken, Caroline Hotz, Adele MacPherson and Joelle Nelson as outgoing members of the Measure E Citizens’ Oversight Committee
  • Extend declaration of five vacancies on the Measure E Citizens’ Oversight Committee
  • Approve settlement agreement totaling $40,184.30 and mutual release to Interior Demolition, Inc. relating to Earthwork and Grading for the Peachland Elementary School New Classroom Buildings Project
  • Approve revisions to classified job descriptions that revises the “words per minute” requirement to read “type accurately at an acceptable rate of speed”
  • Approve certificated Music Teacher job description that adds qualifications and separates out the different qualifications required for Instrumental and General (Choral) Music Teachers

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