Some citizens object to security cameras in FBISD schools
By Michael Sudhalter
Editor’s note: This week’s story on the proposed Fort Bend ISD bond is the first in a series of stories. This story focuses on school security, while others will look into school construction, facilities, and more.
Given the ongoing concerns about school safety, Fort Bend ISD is preparing to spend approximately $14.1 million on security cameras for district schools.
The district currently has 2,098 analog cameras, but if the proposed $538 million bond passes, the current cameras will replaced with 3,700 internet protocol (IP) cameras “to provide the schools and support buildings with adequate coverage in common areas of each school which include entrances and exits, hallways, cafeteria, and other places where students may congregate.”
The FBISD board of trustees will vote on Monday to decide whether to put the proposed bond on the ballot for the Nov. 4 election.
The security cameras represent a little less than half of the $30.1 million allocated to Safety & Security in the proposed bond.
Missouri City resident Yvonne Larsen spoke at a Bond information meeting on Aug. 4 and questioned the legal and constitutional use of the security cameras.
According to the district, the Texas Education Code does not require permission or consent to use videotape or voice recording, if the purpose of the recording is to be used only for purposes of safety and discipline.
Missouri City resident Kris Allfrey, who lost a FBISD Board of Trustees election in May, said on Facebook that the district should address crime on campus in ways other than the installation of new caeras.
“Cameras just record the crime,” Allfrey said. “They do nothing to stop the behavior.”
According to the district, the tax rate will not increase if the new bond is passed “due to the growth of the tax base and proactive financial management.”
Larsen was also concerned about who owns the footage. She raised the point on a Facebook post that the recordings only benefit the vendor or contractor.
The district won’t have a vendor for the cameras, until if/when the bond passes.
“Cameras simply record images to a video recorder,” said Fort Bend ISD police chief David Rider said. “The images are stored on the video recorder. Vendors sell the hardware, but they have no access to the video footage.”
FBISD superintendent Dr. Charles Dupre said the contents of the video can be used for disciplinary action, or if necessary, prosecution.
“Video footage that is part of a police investigation is considered evidence and cannot be released to anyone without a subpoena or court order,” Rider said. “(If the defendants wanted to see it), their defendant’s attorney would have to subpoena the evidence.”
The district used an independent consultant that concluded high school campuses require 96 cameras, middle schools require 66 and elementary, 34.
Among the other security features are security fencing at 41 elementary schools at a cost of $1.28 million and a $525,000 video intercom system that would allow each school to grant access through selected doors.
The addition of stronger, bullet resistant windows at $1.8 million, known as “window film”, which would decrease the risk of flying glass in severe weather and make it more difficult for intruders to access campuses.
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