I am curious to know if any of the District 97 board members would mind if we put cameras in their offices and in all of their meetings. [Smile kids: Cameras set for jr. highs, News, Dec. 9] Would the teachers in our middle schools mind if we put cameras in their classrooms to monitor their performance? My guess is that they would not want the cameras for various reasons.

By deciding to put cameras in our middle schools, the District 97 board is sending the wrong message to the kids: “Behave because the camera is watching.” The message should be “Behave because that is the right thing to do.”

I know that does not work for all kids – never has and never will. But to give up on traditional ways of keeping order in a school in favor of the “easy” way out is short-sighted. As with most things in life, the easy way is not the best way. While the cameras may reduce thefts or fights at schools slightly (and most likely just push them outside the school where kids are more vulnerable), it has a long-term effect on our children that can’t be reversed.

We need to work with these kids to help them make the right decisions for the right reasons. That is hard work and is not 100 percent successful, but that is life. I don’t think preventing an iPod from being stolen or a lost musical instrument, which require staff to have to do a little work, are worth the cost of enhancing the idea that our kids are already too accustomed to – “Do it because you are being watched by a camera or a computer.”

First the high school and now middle schools. Do we stop at elementary schools, or are they next? Or do we stop at the schools and put cameras up on all streets in Oak Park? Sounds like a nice way to reduce bad behavior, but it doesn’t sound like a village that I want to live in. I hope they decide against putting in the cameras, but if they don’t, then I say let’s push to get cameras in the classrooms, teachers’ lounges and the District 97 offices so we can monitor exactly how our tax dollars are being spent.

Matt Cote was born in Oak Park and has lived here for most of his 35 years. He has two children, ages 4 and 2, one of whom will start kindergarten at Washington Irving Elementary School next year. He’s also a board member for the South East Oak Park Community Organization.

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