KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Kansas City, Kansas, Public Schools is considering cameras in classrooms, but some community members are concerned.
The district says its primary focus is to make sure all students have certified and highly-qualified teachers in front of them.
And while KCKPS leaders understand virtual learning is not ideal, they say idly standing by is not an option either.
“It wasn’t about, 'Let’s put cameras to have more surveillance of students and staff.' It was looking at what are some creative options because we absolutely have allocated dollars to adding more staff, recruiting staff, paying for staff to get certification, yet we still have a gap,” said KCKPS Superintendent Dr. Anna Stubblefield.
Additional cameras during the pandemic have shown streaming lessons from qualified teachers could be one solution to the teacher shortage.
Stubblefield notes cameras were initially for surveillance purposes but were expanded to accommodate virtual learning during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“There’s research around just reflective practices — where all of us as educators you can go back and look at yourself and enhance or change different things,” Stubblefield said.
At a forum discussing the topic Saturday morning, Stubblefield assured the audience that with installment there will be policies around privacy, and all laws will be followed.
“Anytime that footage is accessed, the teachers received an email,” Stubblefield said.
Still, the school board's consideration caused a stir among teachers, students and parents.
“You don’t hear about these kinds of surveillance systems in like higher schools like Piper or Shawnee Mission," said Damaris Mireles, district alumni. "They don’t have as much surveillance, which gives us this negative feel of, 'Oh yeah, because they are minorities, they are more proponent to crime.' It’s also like the school-to-prison pipeline."
In a survey of 1,500 people, more than 90% say they are against cameras, according to Dom DeRosa, president of the National Education Association for KCK.
“It does not lend as much to the learning capabilities as the stress levels and anxiety levels that are felt by teachers and students,” DeRosa said. “As one person said, something seen cannot be unseen. And that would disrupt or make the evaluative process that we have in place inequitable between staff.”
The project would cost the district $6.7 million.
Those who attended the forum say they would rather see the money go toward building enhancements, smart boards, teacher pay, transportation and additional school resources like social workers and mental health services.
Data from the community will be gathered until Dec. 21, per Stubblefield. The findings will be presented to the school board in late January or early February.
From there, KCKPS will purchase the cameras or present a different proposal.