UK Schools Experiment With Police-Style Body Cameras To Tackle 'Low-level Background Disorder'

from the bringing-taser-technology-to-a-classroom-near-you dept

Techdirt has written dozens of stories about US police forces deploying body cameras, with all sorts of interesting consequences. Their use for school police means that body cameras are also turning up in US schools, but the next logical step of putting body cameras on the actual teachers has been taken not in the US, but in the UK, as the Guardian reports:

Teachers in two UK schools are trialling using body cameras in class because they are “fed up with low-level background disorder”, a criminal justice academic has revealed.

?

The former Home Office researcher said the three-month pilot scheme, started within the last month, securely stores footage on a cloud platform like ones used by police forces.

Although only two UK schools are currently involved, a survey carried out by the Times Educational Supplement revealed that a third of the teachers who were asked said they would be willing to try wearing a body camera; two thirds said they would feel safer wearing it; and a tenth even thought it would eventually become compulsory for all UK teachers to use them. Another article in the Guardian responding to this news pointed out the many pitfalls of taking this approach, and noted:

as teachers we want children to be accountable for their behaviour. But increasing the spread of surveillance in schools isn’t going to help us do that. Classrooms will be transformed from spaces cultivating inquiry, in all its forms, to centres wary of the threat of being caught out by an all-seeing eye. Ellis [the criminal justice academic who revealed the existence of the UK trial] is at pains to point out that the cameras will not be on all the time; only “where there is a perceived threat to a member of staff or pupils” will they be used. Quite how this will be decided, and how their use will not gradually become routine, is not clear.

One constraint on the routine use of body cameras by all teachers is the sheer quantity of footage that would be produced, and the near-impossibility of reviewing it all. However, that may not be a limiting factor for long if a move by Taser International, which controls around three-quarters of the body camera business in the US, bears fruit:

Taser International, the military hardware company that essentially owns the police body-worn camera market, believes the solution lies in artificial intelligence. It has acquired a startup called Dextro to build an AI research lab focused on developing tools that make it easier for police to search and analyze the massive video libraries hosted by Taser.

Once it gets easier and cheaper for the police to search through their vast video libraries, it will also become easier and cheaper for others to do the same. At that point, it might not be just schools that start deploying body cameras, but everyone interacting with the public in some way. What could possibly go wrong?

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Comments on “UK Schools Experiment With Police-Style Body Cameras To Tackle 'Low-level Background Disorder'”

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31 Comments
Censored says:

I don’t think the point of the cameras would be to review footage and try to find petty crimes or misdemeanors to chase down, but rather to provide a better perspective of what happens during the most intense student and teacher interactions. Rather than relying on the teachers statement versus the student’s statement, they would have the unblinking eye of the camera to settle it.

Considering how much Techdirt pushes for police to have such cameras, it seems reasonable to think they may be useful in other situations. You also have to understand that UK schools are often not the nicest places in the world, http://www.bbc.com/news/education-34268942

Under the circumstances, it seems like a pretty reasonable way to protect the teachers from the students – and vis versa.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I don’t think the point of the cameras would be to review footage and try to find petty crimes or misdemeanors to chase down, but rather to provide a better perspective of what happens during the most intense student and teacher interactions

True, that would be the point and certainly the justification of introducing them. Once they’re there, mission creep is virtually guaranteed. Put it this way; who, other than the "wrongdoers" (which everyone thinks is "someone else") would object when someone suggests the next thing you could use the footage for? The UK is already the most massively surveilled country on the planet and I can’t see more improving things in any respect.

Considering how much Techdirt pushes for police to have such cameras, it seems reasonable to think they may be useful in other situations.

VERY different situations. Part of the point of putting body cameras on police is that you want both parties to modify their behaviour because it may be observed and evidenced. In a classroom, you want (within limits) free expression and exploration. You put teachers and students in the same situation of constant surveillance, you’re going to negatively affect learning.

Not an Electronic Rodent (profile) says:

Re: Low Level Background Disorder

Are UK schools boring their students to death?

Actually… yes. Increasingly, UK curricula seem to focus on rote-learning of methods of dubious validity and/or politically-correct-skewed drivel that often has little to do with the subject at hand (e.g. "Physics" that focuses about the importance of speed enforcement on roads without any of the maths behind it, or chemistry that talks about the need for recycling without discussing the chemistry or even amounts of energy involved).

If I were at school now, I’d be bored to death by it and as a parent it’s hard to keep telling my child how important it is to go to school and get an "education".

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

Search me, Tim.

Back in the day kids would be beaten with canes or paddles; after that we got detention (is that still a thing?).

If silent, staring obedience is what teachers want, they may find that the lack of enquiry (for fear of getting into trouble for speaking out of turn) results in dozy drones who only know what they’re told, and that’s it.

I’m seeing the results of unthinking compliance here at work; one of the reasons I stand out is because I ask questions — and insist on getting answers.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

If silent, staring obedience is what teachers want, they may find that the lack of enquiry (for fear of getting into trouble for speaking out of turn) results in dozy drones who only know what they’re told, and that’s it.

Unfortunately, I can’t help but suspect that more than a few of those involved would see this as a feature, not a bug. ‘Students should be seen, not heard’, that sort of thing.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: This is not the first place I've seen this suggested.

The game No Pineapple Left Behind is a satirical take on this very premise, that the measures we use to determine the success of our schools are better geared to pump out servile test-taking machines rather than functional adults.

Whether or not this is meant to undermine the public education system or shape our children as we imagine we want them to be, some of our officials do like it this way.

(Curiously and alarmingly, Logic and Critical Thinking curricula are shunned by some Republican parties — Texas for one — on the premise that it leads to students who might challenge authority and be driven to disobey. They seem to have no awareness that those kids will someday need to function as adults, for whom critical thought is essential.)

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 This is not the first place I've seen this suggested.

Nonsense, the peons don’t need to think, so long as they can obey the orders from their betters that’s more than enough. Why, if they start thinking, they might start having dangerous thoughts, and we can’t have that now can we? No no, much better to leave the thinking to those better suited to it, it’s better for everyone that way.

/poe

Anyone arguing that ‘logic and critical thinking’ are threats to their position(s) is essentially admitting that those positions are beyond weak and without justification and support.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

It causes problems in a working environment. Case in point: engineer attends a hand dryer not working in the gents. Site FM is female and in meetings all day. Engineer can’t fix the machine, we need a new one; he types up his report on his PDA and hits the send button: “New dryer needed” and closes the job. Two weeks later I pick it up on the WIP (work in progress report). I’m the one who went to the engineer to ask why he didn’t quote to replace the dryer. That’s when I found out he’d put in a hand towel dispenser and the FM didn’t mention it to us because nobody had told her the dryer wasn’t fixed; they were happy with the paper towels. I told the FM what the engineer had done and asked if she wants a new dryer. Yes she does. I’ve asked the engineer to quote to replace the thing.

That doesn’t happen again on my watch: if a thing needs replacing we quote for it on the spot and advise the client, who then has a choice as to whether or not to leave the paper towels regime in place or get a new dryer fitted. This happens whether the FM is available to talk to or not, there are these things called “Emails.”

Why did this happen? It never occurred to anyone to question the status quo. I do it all the time; it results in getting things done.

So… what exactly is the value of having an obedient drone mentality? As far as I can see it causes more problems than it solves. That’s the trouble with authoritarianism; it ultimately does more harm than good. If resolving maintenance issues requires the ability to think outside of the box and being willing to challenge the status quo, how much more does innovation require it?

These twerps are shooting themselves in the foot in the long term, unless they like the idea of dragging the nation backwards.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Cameras in classrooms

I’m not so sure of that. One of the YouTube phenomena of recent years is teachers behaving badly captured on camera phone. Much like many other places where there’s been authority without limited accountability, teacher-to-student abuse is a problem within US and UK schools.

We can probably infer this to be the case most places schools exist, and we can probably infer this to have been a problem throughout the 20th century and before.

While bodycams are not necessarily the solution to the problem, I think it could be a step forward, especially if neither faculty nor administrators nor someone closely allied with administrators have control of the footage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

I am actually in support of a limited deployment scheme for cameras in the classroom. Seeing cameras on the school bus was a normal thing for me to see. The camera box was installed but not always was a camera placed in it. The threat of recording was enough to keep kids and driver safe if an altercation occurred.

If the students in a classroom start causing major issues, the teacher (legitimately) feels their life is threatened, or an officer is called to the room then it would be helpful to have a stationary camera record the incident after the teacher activates it.

The camera shouldn’t be left on. Also tight controls must be in place to prevent misuse of the video footage.

Course, knowing how well government and others deploy and (ab)use video evidence I would say don’t ever put cameras in the classroom.

The key issue will be how transparent, secure, and controlled the deployment and use of cameras are in the hands of normal clear minded teachers.

Coyne Tibbets (profile) says:

Chilling the children

One constraint on the routine use of body cameras by all teachers is the sheer quantity of footage that would be produced, and the near-impossibility of reviewing it all.

That shouldn’t actually be a problem. The local police can simply run it through their criminal analysis AI software. That will be quick and will let them know if there’s anything criminal.

…what do you mean, "chilling effect"?

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