CCTV cameras won’t go into classrooms or corridors

By
August 30, 2010 01:50

Surveillance to be limited to school gates and yards, police say.




Children of foreign workers climb a metal bookcase in Tel Aviv as their parents meet .

311_Israeli teens. (photo credit:Ariel Jerozolimski)

A plan to set up police surveillance cameras at 12 schools across the country will not be implemented by the time the school year starts on Wednesday, police told MKs on Sunday.

During a meeting of the Knesset’s Education, Sports, and Culture Committee, police said that the cameras, which will broadcast back to a police command center, will not be placed in classrooms or hallways, and will be limited to gates and schoolyards, where they can help security guards patrol the campuses.

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The plan has stirred controversy, with critics branding it a “Big Brother” program, and others saying it attempts to replace teachers’ education and discipline with cameras.


Immediately after the plan was announced by police earlier this month, the Justice Ministry’s Public Defense unit leveled criticism at police, saying the proposal lacked proper government oversight and would harm students’ right to privacy.

“Despite the sensitivities involved, there has been no effort made to regulate the hasty move of installing cameras and operating them in a way that will obligate the Israel Police and the various municipalities,” the unit said in a letter sent to Attorney-General Yehuda Weinstein.

“It seems considerations based on protection of privacy, including the need to minimize the use of the cameras and giving preference to alternative means, or limiting their use in certain areas, hardly received attention,” the letter continued.

The Public Defense unit also called for legislation to regulate the use of video monitoring of the public, and protested the “creation of facts on the ground” through pilot plans.

The project is to be run by the Israel Police’s Security Division, and is the latest in a series of steps designed to improve school security. These steps have included increased training for school security guards, with an emphasis on firearms training and self-defense, and personal communications courses for the guards. School guards will also be equipped with pepper spray this school year.

According to an Education Ministry study from 2006, “moderate physical violence” occurred in over half of Israeli schools in 2005, while “serious physical violence,” involving injury or threats, took place in one out of every five.

Almost half of all students described the atmosphere in their school as violent, according to the study, while 27.2 percent said they felt unsafe at school. In addition, 3.7% of students reported carrying “cold weapons” such as knives to school, while 1.5% reported carrying firearms.

During the committee meeting on Sunday, Education Ministry director-general Shimshon Shoshani said students “have the right to feel protected. A student who comes to school must feel that he is safe.”

Shoshani added, “We see the deployment of cameras as part of an educational process. From an educational standpoint, cameras are merely one of many methods, not the only one and not the first.”

Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.

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