Everett schools to beef up security with network of digital eyes

EVERETT -- The Everett School District voted Tuesday to update and expand its surveillance camera system  in its schools. Up to 600 video cameras are expected to be installed in and around schools for the fall 2014.

The district already has more than 80 cameras installed in their schools and more than 100 on their school buses. But officials say many of those cameras are old and outdated.

In addition to their update and expansion program, school officials will  also get  to watch the cameras in real-time from one location in case of emergencies.

Former student Alexandria Nielson said 'Big Brother' was never an issue when she was attending Everett High School.

“I remember a few fights broke out and no one was there to witness; it would have been nice if they had cameras to see what was going on,” said Nielson.

With the new vote, that is exactly what is going to happen. Multiple cameras will be set up at all 26 schools.

“We think it is great for prevention and investigating crime,” Everett police Sgt.Tim Reeves said.

Students will have digital eyes watching them in most public areas inside and outside their schools, with the exception of classrooms, bathrooms and locker rooms.

“I think anytime a child or adult is being watched, they behave better,” Reeves said.

The School District emphasizes no one will be sitting in a room monitoring kids through the lens. In case of emergencies, for example, administrators and police would get to see real-time images from any school from within the administration building.

“I think it’s great to put in every school this kind of security system,” said parent Indrani Power.

For non-emergencies, schools and police will have access to recorded video on a case-by -ase basis.

“It’s for the student’s protection; if you go shopping, there are cameras and if you aren’t stealing you won’t get in trouble,” said Nielson.

Neilson said she’s heard the arguments against the cameras -- people concerned over invasion of privacy but she said extra security is necessary in the times we live in.

Others disagree.

Kimberly Bond has two kids in Everett schools. She said safety is important, but she wonders if the $1.2 million earmarked for the cameras could be spent better elsewhere.

“You also want your kids to get a very good education; you think, could they spend that on something else?” said Bond.

The $1.2 million is coming from a levy approved by voters in 2010.  The board says it is now up to schools to implement the policy. The cameras are expected to be up and running in fall 2014.