Why Do Educators Need Body Cameras?

WHO'S PROTECTING WHOM? We understand the calls for law enforcement to don body cameras. But educators? Burlington Community School District, which teaches 4,300 students in southeastern Iowa, just took surveillance up a new notch by having its principals wear them as well.

The district superintendent describes this move to The Des Moine Register as a form of "personal accountability" that will protect both students and educators. By having documented proof of alleged infractions, officials say they can rely less on he-said, she-said arguments to determine who is telling the truth.

Nevertheless, this move will surely have student privacy advocates in an uproar. (Some schools currently require students to carry RFID chips to keep track of their whereabouts.) Conor Friedersdorf of The Atlantic says these steps "illustrate the seductive power of mass surveillance." He continues:

...many succumb to the illusion that transparency can solve previously intractable problems. That belief is seldom vindicated...It seems that most American schools, however, lack the levels of danger and crime that would justify relying on body cameras. And the effect of transparency in their hallways and classrooms could more likely divide than unite the communities they serve.

But who knows? Given that perceived need to film teachers' in-class performance for professional development purposes (a strategy strongly espoused by Bill Gates), perhaps these body cameras can serve a second purpose. (We doubt it.)

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