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Hopkinton buses, middle/high school to get security cameras

The Hopkinton School District will be getting cameras inside its buses, as well as installing others inside and outside Hopkinton Middle/High School as soon as this fall.

Middle/high school Principal Chris Kelley said the cameras will be both a restraint to bad behavior and a safeguard for students.

“We’re not trying to play ‘gotcha.’ . . . It’s not just sit and watch,” Kelley said. “It’s not 100 screens sitting there with somebody behind those.”

Hopkinton Superintendent Steve Chamberlin said he aims for twofold use of the cameras: to discourage bullying and to protect students.

“This isn’t about hidden cameras,” Chamberlin said. “It’s a way to ensure student safety.”

Cameras in school buses were on the district’s wish list when it entered a new bus contract with First Student Inc. this year, Chamberlin said. The new buses, fully equipped with cameras, will arrive by October.

Chamberlin said the video cameras will be teaching tools if students report bullying or harassment on the district’s buses. With footage of an incident, administrators won’t have to rely on he-said, she-said accounts of what happened.

“We can actually sit down and show why we thought this behavior was bullying or harassment, instead of just talking,” Chamberlin said. “We have an opportunity to sit down side-by-side and watch. . . . It won’t just be one person’s perception.”

Bullying and harassment don’t occur too often on the Hopkinton buses, Chamberlin said, but “sometimes youngsters make some difficult choices.”

Twenty-four to 36 cameras, funded through a grant from the Executive Council, will also be placed at the entrances and inside Hopkinton Middle/High School. The district is still waiting to find out the exact amount of funding it will receive for the project.

The building is small, but its entrances are not immediately next to the school’s main office and are not always monitored by administrators, Kelley said. Five stories of staircases create nooks and crannies often out of sight for teachers.

“Having cameras in those areas where our eyes can’t be all the time is where we hope cameras could be a deterrent,” Kelley said. “We can’t be everywhere at once. It’s not that we have a large number of incidences that happen in the back stairwells or in those entrances that aren’t easily seen.”

Those cameras could also be critical during any emergency situations, and Chamberlin said law enforcement will have the ability to tap into the video feed if necessary.

“This would be an addition that would enforce the safety of our students, as well as our first responders,” Chamberlin said.

A handful of people attended a public hearing Tuesday night on the cameras before the regular school board meeting, Chamberlin said. They asked questions about who will be able to access the video feed and how often it might be checked.

Those questions and concerns will factor into the district’s policy on how it uses the video cameras.

“The superintendent, school personnel, law enforcement are typical authorizations in the model policies I’ve read,” Chamberlin said.

The policy is still being written, he said, but it will be completed before the cameras are installed and the new buses are delivered.

(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321 or mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter
@megan_e_doyle.)

I wonder if anyone in Hopkinton is smart enough to read the book by George Orwell titled "1984"

As a parent of a student at Hopkinton Middle High School I find this article to be troubling. The Superintendent was quoted as saying cameras "is a way to ensure safety". Perhaps a more appropriate and less costly way would be to secure the front doors of the building during school hours. As a parent who has over the years entered the building for many reasons during the school day, I still shake my head in wonder when I am able to walk into the building, through the cafeteria filled with students either at break/lunch or even study halls while other kids are just feet away in the gymnasium. I am able to enter the building, walk past dozens of students and up the flight of stairs it takes to get to the Administration Offices. Someday Hopkinton will open it's eyes and pay attention to what's happening around them and realize they are leaving their students completely vulnerable. "Ensuring student safety"?? Really Mr. Chamberlain? And before there's a retort that policy has changed. It was just last week at 9am that I walked through your doors. As I have done many times over many years.

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