Four years ago, Oak Park District 97 installed security cameras at its two middle schools, Brooks and Julian.
Now the district is considering doing the same at the eight elementary schools. The difference is these cameras would monitor the grounds and exteriors while the middle school devices were mostly aimed inside. A string of recent crimes, including vandalism of some of the buildings, prompted the need for greater outdoor monitoring, according to district officials. We share D97 board member Peter Traczyk's assertion that outdoor cameras in this instance are "a no-brainer." But we urge the administration and school board to listen to parents' concerns before signing off on this level of monitoring.
When middle school cameras were being considered, some parents voiced legitimate concerns about privacy. D97 has a policy and administrative procedures that govern how cameras are used. Those policies will also govern the elementary cameras, D97 officials have promised. Privacy, that diminishing luxury of modern life, is important and necessary for kids in a school setting. But their safety inevitably takes precedence.
The middle school cameras, for instance, have helped reduce theft, according to the two schools' former principals. Outdoor cameras likely will have the same effect.