Laws for School Safety: Frequently Asked Questions (Part 2)

The laws for school safety are variable throughout the states in America but there are some that are consistent. It is important to regard the rules which apply to your specific school as well as be mindful about the benefits of implementing these into your system. While it is crucial to preserve the safety and security of your education institute, checking to see what crosses federal law is an irreplaceable step before installing CCTV cameras within schools. As a disclaimer, the usage of security cameras always seems to be a hot-button issue at times, so make sure to inform parents before installing them within any educational buildings.

Additionally, the emergency plans and preventative measures which are offered by most schools may apply to your educational system. The following information on laws and regulations are beneficial to keep in mind whilst upgrading your school’s security and safety. The priority for schools should always be protecting the students while they are inside the building or within the premises. 

school security cameras
Cathy Layman | Times Photo xxxxxxx: This is one of 16 new security cameras set up at John Glenn High School, this one showing the main entrance and the door to the office. When everything is up and running, they will be monitored from computers. Date taken: Monday, August 25, 2008.

What are “school safety rules”? 

There are a multitude of Federal Acts to preserve safety in schools, from drugs to weapons. However, some of the most streamline rules for schools regarding safety are: walking, not running within the halls, do not go to unauthorized places, use the emergency exits, and abide by school rules of proper conduct.

Thirty-three states in America require school safety plans, which consists of fire/tornado drills, lockdown drills and disaster drills. All plans offered by schools should cover prevention, response and recovery from the emergency situation. It is also important to convey to students the repercussions from bullying, carrying a weapon, and committing vandalism and how the school can offer protection from these issues. 

What is the Safe School Act?

Like all laws and regulations, these rules vary by district and state. However, there is a baseline for the expectations and liabilities schools can face according to the Safe Schools Act. Especially the Gun-Free Schools Act of 1994 which enforced zero-tolerance laws requiring educators to expel for at least a single year any student who is determined to have brought a weapon into school. 

A beneficial method for education systems to prevent this instance from happening is to install security cameras and CCTV management softwares. This provides a way for faculty to monitor who is a potential threat or keep track of unwanted intruders on the premises. Although most states differ in their laws for schools, it is crucial to follow the main expectations regarding safety and security in education. 

Are schools legally responsible for student safety?

According to the Federal laws for school safety, schools are legally responsible for student safety. However, implementing exactly how to protect students are not laws, as most often schools provide safety through threat assessments and basic security cameras. It is important to rationalize what methods are best for protecting the security and safety of the students. 

Essentially, even though schools must be responsible for students’ safety while attending classes, they can provide safety measures in their own way and according to state laws. Educational systems should ensure the mental and physical assuredness for their students and faculty in order to create a secure environment. Schools are legally responsible for students’ injuries or harm if they had previous notice of a potential harmful situation and failed to take steps to prevent it. They are also legally responsible if aspects of the building are dangerous or unsuitable for students and a child gets injured. 

What rights do school students have?

Students have rights regarding free speech and discrimmination related issues. Even though it might not seem like a lot, it does protect the usual rights that a person should be able to have no matter their age. Students have rights regarding free speech, dress codes, immigrant rights, disability rights, privacy rights, protests and discrimination.  

Students have free speech rights as long as it does not impinge on other students’ rights. Dress codes must reflect no bias toward gender stereotypes, for instance the skirt rules apply to boys just as much as the girls. Protests are allowed for absences as long as it applies to a social injustice message instead of on a whim. 

Is CCTV allowed in schools?

Schools are legally allowed to have security cameras within the building and on the perimeters of the entrances. The footage must not be considered educational records and also refrain from disclosing the content without signed permission. 

Almost 95% of high schools utilize CCTV in their buildings and also are much more affordable than they were in previous decades. Even though many parents and students believe it is an invasion of privacy, as long as cameras look minimal and the students have been informed of their presence, it is perfectly legal in public areas. 

Is it legal to have security cameras in classrooms?

As long as a school does not have a school video surveillance policy prohibiting cameras on the premises of campus, it is technically a legal option to install security cameras in classrooms as long as it is stated in the education policies.  However, according to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, parents are allowed to check the footage which contains their child within it. In addition, a school would require a signed form before releasing any footage. 

Regarding CCTV in schools law, it is perfectly legal to have them installed in common areas such as hallways, parking areas, and supply rooms. Classrooms are an unexpected place to have CCTV footage from, however it is useful in cases of theft or fires. Keep in mind however that most often it causes students to become stressed from having their day-to-day life video taped. 

Why is CCTV used in schools?

The most important reasons schools utilize CCTV is because of safety and security issues or concerns. There have been a multitude of school shooters and also vandalism committed by students, and having cameras gives the school an opportunity to prevent and also catch who commited a crime. Having a security camera system helps persuade potential incidents by possibly encouraging a person to think twice that if there are cameras, they will be most likely caught. 

It also enables school faculty to monitor the premises without having to leave their designated area which is designed to help students and parents. In addition, storing the footage from school hallways and areas help decrease bullying as well as tracking individuals who break school rules. It also helps with identifying criminals as most surveillance systems run 24/7 and also have rendered nighttime vision capabilities. Additionally, security cameras are utilized by faculty to monitor who comes and goes into the building in order to understand who and who shouldn’t be on campus.

Do schools actually check cameras?

It mostly depends on the school’s policies, yet usually the rule of thumb is to check security camera footage when there has been an incident on campus recently. If there are high rates of infractions on school rules, then the footage will be checked more frequently. All in all, schools will check cameras, just not often however for other schools, the footage would be watched almost constantly. 

In addition, there is no audio for any footage recorded from security cameras on school property due to strict legislation regarding recording sound. There are also capabilities for faculty to have access to footage from smartphone apps but usually CCTV footage is only checked if an incident has recently happened. 

How long is CCTV footage kept in schools?

Footage from CCTV can be kept in schools for a maximum of 90 days but an average of 30 days. This is because of legal issues and also mainly the storage capabilities of the cloud-based video management software. Usually schools have a multitude of security cameras which all are running constantly with high definition footage which will rack up gigabytes very quickly. 

There are not a lot of security camera softwares which offer plans higher than a couple of terabytes which causes the storage to become full after roughly a month of use. Emptying out the footage is not a manual process, as many security camera systems merely override the old contents when new information is stored. Essentially, schools do not enforce keeping records of security camera footage because of the legal liabilities and also the overall storage capabilities of their softwares. 

What is illegal regarding CCTV usage in schools?

According to CCTV in schools law, the most obvious place CCTVs can’t be used even with disclaimers sent out to parents are bathrooms and locker rooms as it violates privacy rights of the students. In addition, security system footage with audio cannot be utilized within school buildings and areas.

Most states prohibit security camera footage being used in employee break rooms as it is usually a place of privacy from a long work day. As long as school CCTV cameras are within sight, notices are posted or parents are informed, and they are not placed within illegal areas, it is perfectly legal to provide this security within an educational building.

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