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Students object to video cameras on LOHS campus

School board tables premature proposal, but that doesn't stop debate over safety, security

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - Lake Oswego High could someday get video cameras to monitor its parking lots.There may not be an official proposal for a video monitoring system at Lake Oswego High School, but campus cameras could be in the district’s future, and two teens attending a Monday meeting made sure the school board understood their opposition to any form of video surveillance.

The Lake Oswego School Board tabled a request to approve the expenditure of up to $25,000 in donated funds for the installation of cameras in LOHS parking lots because the item needed to be clearer on some points, such as the number of cameras and their main purpose — and because the LOHS students were so adamant in their opposition to the plan.

“Students want to feel comfortable in class. We don’t want to feel like criminals,” said Daniel Vogel, a junior at LOHS.

Junior Erica North said she doesn’t want cameras at her school because it would be like Big Brother watching. “I fear this would create a state of distrust,” North said.

But as it turns out, the discussion was all a little premature. Though such a project could be in the school’s future, LOHS Principal Cindy Schubert said, an unnamed school employee got a little ahead of the game.

“At this point, the school is only exploring options,” Schubert said. “We have not made any decision about security or safety cameras at all. That is something we would do quite a bit more research on.”

That being said, after a districtwide discussion and parent input, the concept could be broached again.

“The notion that we’re going to be taking a serious look at security cameras in the future is a very good bet,” Lake Oswego School District Superintendent Bill Korach said.

A bomb threat caused a two-hour delay at Lake Oswego High School in January, and there were two other bomb threats shortly before that at Lake Oswego Junior High. It’s possible, LOSD Director of Finance Stuart Ketzler said, that if there had been a camera in the LOHS parking lot, the person who left a threatening note at the door of the school just might have been caught.

School district officials already were overhauling school safety and security protocols because of school shootings across the country, including the rampage in 2012 at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in which a gunman killed 26 people, 20 of whom were children.

“Because of the Newtown incident a year and a half ago, the district and schools and the SACs (School Advisory Committees) have been talking about security measures, but I’m not aware of us coming to any conclusions or making any recommendations,” said Michelle Lentzner, a member of the LOHS SAC.

Still, if Schubert wants to explore a surveillance system, that’s fine with Jill Stiss, a Lake Oswego resident whose daughter attends LOHS.

“The principal is amazing, and she does everything she possibly can to provide safety for the kids, so whatever she feels she needs to do is fine,” said Stiss, a member of the Laker Club.

School board member John Wendland said at the meeting Monday that there used to be security guards on staff, but those positions were eliminated in an effort to save money. Lakeridge High School has had camera surveillance of its parking lot for several years, and in the late 1990s, a principal proposed putting a camera in the LOHS cafeteria to address concerns with student behavior. But Korach, who has served as superintendent for 27 years, said the school board shot the notion down at the time because it didn’t seem the best way to monitor students’ behavior.

But times have changed, Korach said, and putting a few cameras in the parking lot is now more about safety than about keeping an eye on students.

If school officials do decide to proceed with a surveillance plan, Schubert said, they’ll return to the board with an official proposal. That’s because any capital projects costing more than $5,000 must go before the board, even if they’ll be paid for using donated funds.

As for Monday’s discussion, Ketzler said it’s important to note that students in Lake Oswego stand up for what they believe in.

“We have students who are engaged and articulate and willing to take their time to express their opinions with the board,” Ketzler said. “I don’t know if that would happen in every district.”

By Jillian Daley
503-636-1281, ext. 109
email: jdaley@lakeoswegoreview.com
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