FCPS is watching?

Alex Krial, Reporter
October 8, 2011
Filed under Top Stories

In the near future, you may have to smile whenever you’re at school. There could be cameras watching you, if the FCPS High School Principal’s Association has its way.

In the first weeks of September, FCPS officials presented a proposal to the School Board that video surveillance cameras be installed in every FCPS high school. The proposal came in the wake of two serious food fights, one in March at Robert E. Lee High School, and another one just two weeks later at Centreville High School. Nearly 100 students participated in the food fight at Lee, and hundreds stampeded toward the exits, according to the Washington Post. The second fight was even more serious, with two foreign students becoming so overwhelmed by the fight that they hyperventilated and had to be taken to the emergency room. The worst part of both situations? Most of the guilty students went unpunished because the cafeteria chaos made it difficult to identify who was at fault.

These food fights were the catalysts for a group of 27 Fairfax County high school principals to band together and issue a plea to the school board to repeal the ban on indoor surveillance cameras in public schools. According to the principals, the cameras would be a great advantage to their administrations because they would reduce bullying, student drug trafficking, theft, food fights and vandalism. The principals state that if teachers do not have to spend as much time disciplining students and making sure everybody stays out of trouble, then teachers will be able to devote much more time to actual education. Implementing cameras in all FCPS high schools would cost a total of about $3.24 million, according to the Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform group.

The proposal has been met with mixed reactions.

“I think it would probably be fine…I would forget about the cameras [being there] after a while,” said sophomore Michelle Ehrensaal.

Fairfax High School principal Dave Goldfarb has expressed strong support for the cameras. “Cameras could support good decision making…it is about maintaining a safe, secure, and drug-free environment,” he said in a letter to the Fairfax community.

However, one parent group, the Fairfax Zero Tolerance Reform group, has made it clear that they strongly disapprove of the proposal and will do everything they can to make sure it does not pass. “It is an overreactive measure that perpetuates a ‘gotcha’ atmosphere in our schools,” they asserted in a press release.

Sophomore Alex Mireler agrees. “I feel like my privacy would be lessened if there were cameras everywhere,” she remarked. “Video surveillance [might] be salutary because of its ability to prevent not only bullying and theft, but also drug usage. However, it would also transform the school environment into something intolerable,” said junior Mujtaba Wani.

“I would probably stop coming to school if there were cameras everywhere,” added freshman D.J. Williams.

Langley principal Matt Ragone remains somewhat neutral on the issue. “I don’t know whether or not this board will make that change. I do not believe we need them at Langley. But I also think principals should have the tools they think they might need to keep their students safe.”

The FCPS School Board will discuss the issue at its Oct. 17 meeting, and a decision could be reached as early as November.

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