Does the Miramonte case argue for cameras in the classroom?
The allegations of sexual abuse at Miramonte Elementary School have brought with them some predictable online chatter about whether it might be smart to place video cameras in classrooms as a deterrent to molestation and for evidence if it occurs anyway.
The debate about cameras in the classroom comes up from time to time -- a number of schools in England have them -- not just because of concerns about crime but as a way to evaluate teachers' work. After all, some underperforming teachers will put on their best act when the principal comes in to watch. There are stories of teachers who spend more time regaling their students with personal stories than actually teaching, and knowing that any segment of their teaching time might be viewed could be an incentive to stay on task. Taping would allow school districts to send excerpts anywhere in the world for experts to analyze and share their thoughts.
Right now, of course, this is a nonstarter for financial reasons. The state needs the money to put more teachers in classrooms before it can remotely worry about installing cameras to watch them. But every argument for recording the classroom has a strong argument to counter it. True, we're at the point of placing cameras on street corners, but is there no place for privacy? Is every whispered interchange between students in the back of the classroom then fodder for examination, investigation and action?
Molesters might be deterred from crimes in the classroom, but they'd just look for places without surveillance. And while awareness of cameras in the classroom might prod a certain amount of conscientious behavior among teachers, it could also detract from instruction by making them nervous, stiff and more conscious of the need to look good on tape than the need to connect with students.
Is it time for the camera debate to return?
Photo: A newly posted teacher leads her students out for recess at Miramonte Elementary school. Credit: Los Angeles Times