Editor's Note: Even though Fairfax City residents cannot vote for Fairfax County School Board members, the decisions made by the county school board affect curriculum, resources and staffing in city schools. Fairfax City schools are run by FCPS through a services contract the city has with Fairfax County.
Seven candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Fairfax County School Board in the Nov. 8 elections.
Patch took six questions based on submissions from readers and sent them in a survey to all at-large candidates. All but candidate Lin-Dai Kendall got back to us with their answers.
This series will look at how the candidates responded to each question.
Question: Do you support video surveillance in the county’s high schools? To what extent?
And the responses?
Four of the candidates said they are not in favor of installing surveillance cameras in schools. They cite a lack of studies proving the cameras would be affective in detering crime, an unknown cost, and the program's potential damage to student morale. One candidate wants to try all other crime-deterring methods first. The sixth needs more information before he can make a decision.
Read on for full responses.
Ted Velkoff: "We should first be sure we have made every possible effort to curb the behaviors that led to recent incidents in the first place."
Before we even consider increasing the current level of video surveillance in high schools (which I believe the community is not ready to do, given the recent issues with the discipline system), we should first be sure we have made every possible effort to curb the behaviors that led to recent incidents in the first place. This could take the form of presentations, programs or discussions with students in school and with parents at PTA meetings and town halls.
Steve Stuban: Installing surveillance cameras "moves our school learning environment toward a police state, which clearly is problematic."
I have grave concerns about the use of video surveillance cameras in our schools and would only consider such use in very limited instances where there is a pattern of misconduct and harm, or damage could be reasonably expected to occur in areas not routinely patrolled by school staff. I believe repeated instances of disorderly conduct or property damage are generally more reflective of an ineffective school administration leadership climate. In fact, at a recent informal gathering with a half dozen retired FCPS principals, they strongly agreed with me when I made that observation. I understand our students have a lesser expectation of privacy in our public schools and, as such, a lower standard of reasonable suspicion, instead of probable cause, suffices for school administrators to search or question our students in the interest of maintaining good order and discipline within our schools. However, I question the efficacy of subjecting every student to unfettered video camera surveillance within our schools and believe doing so moves our school learning environment toward a police state, which clearly is problematic. I am concerned about the citizenship messaging and values FCPS would thereby impart to our students. What question should our students be encouraged to ask themselves: “Is it morally appropriate to behave as I do?” Or: “Is it necessary to regulate my behavior because it is subject to surveillance at this particular time and location?”
Ilryong Moon: What would justify the surveillance program? And what affect would it have?
Our schools need to be safe and secure, and I trust our principals have their students’ best interest at heart with the security camera proposal. But I also understand parent input that adopting these cameras could create privacy concerns or allow for enforcement of rules in a punitive, rather than educational, manner.
At this point, I have yet to be convinced of the need of increased video surveillance in our schools. I have yet to see the types of data that would be convincing on a topic like this, such as broad increase in in-school crime rates or thefts, to commit a large expenditure and put aside privacy concerns. While the recent spat of food fights are indeed a cause for concern and a serious safety risk, in themselves they do not constitute the type of threat to student well-being or property security that I think would warrant an increase in school surveillance techniques.
In general, discipline proceedings should be a part of the complete learning process. Those who stray should not be lost; we need to target those students who need extra help and give it to them so that all of our students are able to reach their full potential. Discipline for discipline’s sake is no way to achieve this.
With that said, this is a topic that should be left for the new school board. There is not enough time before November to fully consider the issue, and we need to complete the currently-scheduled series of meetings on the topic and digest the lessons from that as well as other sources of public input before coming to a conclusion here. I also believe that for these types of proposals, a limited pilot program may be a good way to assess what the value and costs may be to the school system more generally. With a pilot, we can look to see if this program is having the intended effects, and if it is not, we can look to another solution.
Ryan McElveen: "That video surveillance inside schools is even being discussed shows that the welfare of students is often the lowest priority for FCPS."
That video surveillance inside schools is even being discussed shows that the welfare of students is often the lowest priority for FCPS. Aside from being an utter waste of money and resources in terms of crime prevention and crime solving, the cameras will completely demoralize our students. I want young voters, many of whom may happen to be high school students, to understand that I am pledging to do everything in my power to not let this happen. Just because some of our schools still look like prisons doesn’t mean we have to equip them with high-security tools.
Lolita Mancheno-Smoak: Surveillance contradicts the educational discipline process.
I believe that video surveillance is in contradiction to the progress being made with establishing a restorative, educational, and therapeutic discipline process within FCPS.
Sheree Brown-Kaplan: There are other, more proven ways to deter crime.
No, I do not support video surveillance inside the county’s high schools. The rationale provided is not based on sound principles and no data supports video surveillance as an adequate prevention or deterrent technique. Prior to any consideration of video surveillance, the School Board should first fully employ at all high schools the Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program. There is no evidence that video cameras will make our schools safer, but there is evidence of that the best practice of PBIS, when implemented consistently and with fidelity, improves student behavior. In addition, the full cost is unknown and the School Board should not be allocating funds to install video cameras when it has had to cut important instructional programs like summer school. The School Board should examine the research conducted by Dewey Cornell from the Curry School at UVA which outlines techniques that reduce bullying and suspensions. Implementing proven deterrent and prevention practices such as these would be the more efficient and effective use of our limited resources. We can and must do better to provide more positive and proactive approaches to modify student behavior than merely resorting to video surveillance.
Check Patch again for more questions and answers.