The Mountain View Whisman School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved a formal policy and associated regulations governing the installation and use of security cameras on school campuses at a Thursday, Jan. 20, meeting.
The district plans to spend roughly $3 million in Measure T bond funds to install security cameras on campuses this summer. Voters approved the $259 million Measure T bond in 2020.
The rules that the board approved limit where cameras can be placed and to what extent the footage can be saved, viewed and shared. The district will also be required to disclose the cameras' presence annually in a written notice to parents and students, as well through posted signs in the affected areas.
District officials have said that installing surveillance systems will help deter "destructive activities" like vandalism and aid in identifying the perpetrators when incidents do occur.
During Thursday's meeting, as evidence of the utility that cameras could provide, board member Devon Conley pointed to a recent incident where she said two children lit a fire on a school campus.
"I think that there's unfortunately a clear and demonstrated need for this," Conley said.
In response to questions from this news organization, school district spokesperson Shelly Hausman confirmed that a fire was set at Amy Imai Elementary School on Jan. 12, which caused no injuries or significant damage. Hausman referred questions about whether the perpetrators had been identified to the Mountain View Police Department, which did not immediately respond.
The following day there was a fire set at Springer Elementary School in Mountain View and the Los Altos Police Department apprehended two minors, Sgt. Ryan Burke of the Los Altos Police Department said. Because both schools are in Mountain View, Burke wasn't able to say whether the two were connected.
Board member Chris Chiang said he is looking forward to the cameras acting as a deterrent, but also hopes that events like the recent fires can be used to help teach students about the harm that such incidents can cause.
"On the education front, this is happening often enough that I hope that we proactively talk to the kids about how to take care of our community and the consequences of their actions," Chiang said.
The policy that the board passed prohibits cameras from being installed in any area where there's a "reasonable expectation of privacy" and doesn't allow the cameras to record any sounds.
The accompanying administrative regulation lays out details, including a list of acceptable areas to place cameras. Those include entrance and exit doors, parking lots, interior hallways, "large open interior spaces," gymnasiums, cafeterias, school buses and athletic fields. The superintendent can also put cameras in additional areas that aren't listed, but must notify the board.
The video captured can be used in staff and student disciplinary proceedings as well as for matters that are referred to policy. Recording can be shown without parental consent to outside entities like police, the district attorney or a judge in certain circumstances.
Live monitoring of the camera feeds is only allowed in certain circumstances where there is an ongoing emergency. Any recordings that aren't saved for a student or employee's record, or for use in law enforcement proceedings, will be destroyed every 30 days.
The district gathered feedback from schools and community members last year. No community members provided public comment at Thursday's meeting.