Surveillance cameras peer into private lives in the stale name of safety and security, from rooftops and highway overpasses, to government buildings, retail stores, and, now — to the resounding consternation of parents in one Colorado town — high school bathrooms.
Citing the same stale impetus, Windsor Charter Academy Early College High School installed security cameras in two men’s and two women’s restrooms, where — in an unusual setup — stalls extend fully from floor to ceiling. Thus, academy officials contend, students will be fully clothed while being surveilled in the hand washing area considered public, outside the stalls.
“We had surveillance cameras in our plans from the very start,” Windsor Charter Academy Executive Director Rebecca Teeples told KVDR. “It was part of the design of the new wing.”
“We want to make sure our students are safe and secure,” she added.
For many students, however, safety and security inside their restrooms comes at the expense of their dignity, privacy, and basic rights — with some parents willing to pursue the matter legally should the academy not grant a request for the cameras’ removal.
By the time Middle School eighth-grader, Kaylee Garrett, voiced concern to her father and mother, Trevor and Annie Garrett — and explained she had witnessed high-schoolers covering the lenses with tape because they felt too uncomfortable to even use the facilities — cameras had been watching students in the four bathrooms for three weeks.
“I was floored,” Trevor recalled for the Greeley Tribune.
Three of the Garretts’ children are enrolled in the Windsor Charter Academy system.
“The first word that comes to mind is disgusting,” Trevor told KDVR. “I never thought it would be on anyone’s mind to put cameras in bathrooms anywhere.”
With the omnipresent eyes of the State having long ago been normalized in nearly every facet of daily life, academy administrators agreed installing cameras to spy on high school students in the bathroom was not only reasonable, but a good idea — and facilitated by the school’s new stall doors.
“I would urge people to consider that the charter school is trying to improve the protection of privacy, but in doing that drawing a line between the private space and the public space that is new and that people will learn to use appropriately,” Bill Bethke, an attorney representing Windsor Charter Academy and others, told the Tribune.
Privacy should be expected when walking into the bathroom, Trevor Garrett emphasized, citing Department of Justice guidelines that cameras not be placed anywhere students have a “reasonable expectation of privacy.”
Students change clothes in school bathrooms regularly, so the cameras present a problem when there aren’t any stalls available.
Worse, reports Greeley Tribune, “Trevor said he was additionally concerned because staff said select administrators and Information Technology employees all have access to the footage and he was worried what they might see, but Teeples said the move to put cameras in all public areas of the school — including, she said, the washroom portion of the bathrooms — was about student safety.”
Looking outside the school for assistance, Annie “said she contacted the Windsor Police Department with her concerns about the cameras. According to Lt. Craig Dodd of the Windsor Police Department, Officer Chris Darcy, the school resource officer for the town of Windsor, visited the school Thursday morning and did not find any indication of any criminal violations,” according to the Tribune.
If the Garretts do not convince Windsor Charter Academy to remove the bathroom surveillance cameras, they vow to do so in court.
Windsor Charter Academy did not appear to offer any statistics or additional data explaining a heightened need for spy cameras in high school bathrooms, but did champion safety and security, nonetheless.
“Every decision we make,” Teeples reiterated, “we make to make sure our students are as safe as possible in our school.”
(Featured image: CBS Denver)