Administrators begin to define cameras’ role



A sign posted near one of Roseville High School’s entrance gates reads “under video surveillance.” Administrators can refer to camera footage to verify events on campus.


Earlier this month, senior Kelsey Garcia tweeted a video that features footage from security cameras the school installed this summer. According to Garcia, she obtained the footage from a school staff member who was directed to attain the consent of the senior Illiana Cassidy, the girl in the video. Cassidy then allowed Garcia to post it to Twitter.

With assistance from the RJUHSD Technology Department, RHS principal David Byrd, the four assistant principals and youth services officer Marc Kelley can access the footage directly. If students, parents or teachers need information or access to footage, they can request it from an administrator.

While assistant principal Jason Wilson declined to comment on specific cases to preserve student privacy, he feels when a student requests to view footage, the administrators decide whether to show them based on the individual case.

“[Footage] is not something that is just shared out with everybody,” Wilson said. “We would talk about the situation and purpose that we would need the video for and the administrators would decide if it’s appropriate.”

According to Byrd, he himself has yet to need to show video to students or staff. He feels it should be done with caution if the need arises.

“We would rather not [show footage] if it contains anything that’s sensitive,” Byrd said. “There may be scenarios where we need some kids to get involved and that’s the administrator’s judgement, but as a general rule we feel like it’s a tool just for our administrators here and just for law enforcement.”

Within the Technology Department, only technology director Tony Ham and network administrator Dave Todd assist with obtaining footage.

Ham feels that they aim to preserve student privacy through restricted access to video.

“We’re only doing this request for the same people who have access to the cameras,” Ham said. “But the people who the board has approved of access, if they say ‘we’re having trouble using the system’ because they’re not really doing this all the time, we would strictly step in just for expediency.”

According to Ham, direct access to the footage may be given to people other than the administrators, such as the school’s legal team or the district, under certain circumstances, but only someone with a “justified need” to reference it.

“Because of a fight say there’s a lawsuit that’s levied against the district that’s saying that there wasn’t enough supervision or their kid was being bullied, we could then go back because it’s another way to verify or corroborate a story,” Ham said.

Video cameras placed above students’ heads near the cafeteria have limited storage and are unable to record constantly. According to Byrd, more cameras will be added at a later date in order to cover up any blind spots.

In potential legal cases, Byrd says that they would comply with attorneys who may require the footage.

“We’re usually talking about lawyers and attorneys who are just trying to solve a legal matter,” Byrd said. “We’re obviously going to comply with anyone who makes those requests of us and provide them the information that they need to figure out what took place and figure out responsibility.

The cameras automatically erase all footage after three weeks to make room for new video. In the event that a school administrator needs to save video as a source of reference, the Technology Department can help export the video to a drive that the administrator has access to, though no camera footage files may be shared with anyone else unless a special circumstances require it.
Wilson finds the limited video storage makes it difficult to rely on the cameras as a source of reference in cases without a specific time frame, including the recent vandalism at the library, necessitating campus awareness.

“If new things were to happen we would know ‘well it wasn’t there the day before’ so we can look at yesterday and try to find a time frame of when this may have occurred,” Wilson said. “But certain instances, ‘well how long has that been there,’ if we don’t know it’s going to be tough to figure out when to even start to look.”

Regardless, Wilson feels the cameras have served effectively as a crime deterrent.

“Knowing that there is surveillance, people are less likely to instigate and do things on campus that they can be identified for, so really the deterrent factor has been valuable,” Wilson said.

Administrators can adjust and expand the number of cameras to maximize their effectiveness and coverage. Recently a new camera was added between the 400 wing and Julie Estridge Library to eliminate blind spots. Byrd predicts that they will need to move and add cameras after the completion of the new auxiliary gym.

Ham believes the nature of the surveillance system makes adding new cameras simple.

“The camera system was designed in such a way where we can expand upon it quite easily,” Ham said. “If there were needs on the campus and site administrators say ‘we have a problem area’ it would be relatively easy and expedient for them to add additional cameras.”

In the near future, Wilson predicts the cameras will be useful in monitoring the outside of newly renovated bathrooms for vandalism.

“We want to make sure we are diligent about checking cameras [outside the bathrooms] in the case that there is any vandalism,” Wilson said. “In terms of ebb and flow, people going to and coming from, if we do have vandalism we can try and figure out who might be responsible.”

Byrd feels the cameras will demonstrate their full value in time.

“Over the long haul I’m sure there’s going to be some situations that we’re really glad we have them,” Byrd said. “It’s all the problems that we’re preventing that we don’t always know about that we’re grateful for.”