Say cheese! Body cameras coming to Iowa school district

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First police officers, now principals.

Administrators at an Iowa school district will be outfitted with body cameras to record student and parent interactions with principals and assistant principals, the Des Moines Register reported.

Burlington Community School District, which is just southeast of Des Moines, shelled out $1,100 on 13 clip-on video cameras that district officials say will protect both kids and principals.

Superintendent Pat Coen told the newspaper that the purpose of purchasing body cameras is to hold both students and administrators at the eight schools responsible for their actions.

“It’s personal accountability,” Superintendent Pat Coen told the newspaper. “Did we treat this person with dignity, honor and respect? And if we didn’t, why didn’t we?”

The purchase, which may be a first for administrators at any school in the country, was in part prompted by a middle school principal who said he was wrongly accused of kicking a student.

A parent had complained about the principal, Mark Yeoman – but luckily for him, the incident was caught on tape.

“They didn’t have to take my word over the child’s word,” Yeoman said. “They were able to see it.”

Body cameras have become de rigueur in law enforcement after several incidents between white police officers and unarmed black residents turned brutal and deadly – and were caught on video.

It is more common for school buses to be equipped with video cameras, or school safety officers to wear cameras, according to the Register.

But the body cameras on principals raise privacy issues, not unlike what law enforcement officials are now facing.

Ken Trump of the National School Safety and Security Services said the cameras could prevent administrators from building trust with students, and the cameras can also have unintended consequences from picking up admissions from students – for example, that they are being abused at home.

“You have to ask, really, why are we doing this?” Trump said. “And is it going to create more problems than it solves?”

Coen said administrators will make the extra effort to take a fair approach to behavior picked up by the cameras.

“We need to make sure we don’t make something bigger than it is,” he said. “We’ve got to have strong school administrators who are all on the side of kids.”

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Body Cameras, Education & STEM, Innovation, Iowa, Privacy, State & Local News, States
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