Board: Cameras in Pine Bluff Schools won't act as "Big Brother"

PINE BLUFF (KATV) - Pine Bluff's school board Tuesday night gave the green light to cameras in the classroom at their board meeting.

Board members claimed the move is necessary to maintain both staff and student safety.

Piccola Washington, school board president, said it's no secret that the school district's losing students every year. Washington said she hopes showing a commitment to safety by putting these cameras in the classroom would help potentially bring people back to Pine Bluff.

"I think it's an issue anywhere you go," said Washington. "You're always going to have problems."

Washington believes putting cameras in the classrooms at Pine Bluff High School and Jack Robey Junior High School will help deter the problems they have and help in the discipline process if they were to arise.

Watson Chapel school district already has cameras inside their school's classrooms. The district installed the cameras back in 2010 using federal stimulus dollars to pay for most of the project.

Their cameras have both audio and video capabilities, allowing administration to not only see, but listen to video surveillance of classrooms that may have gone awry. Cameras seem to be working in Watson Chapel schools - they're seeing results.

"The classroom discipline probably has been cut in half," said Danny Hazelwood, superintendent of Watson Chapel schools.

"I don't have exact numbers for that but I do know that the number of incidents and reports went down dramatically."

Most Pine Bluff schools already have security cameras affixed to the outside of the buildings. Washington said those cameras have come in handy when it has come to identifying building vandals.

Currently there is no dollar amount placed on how much outfitting both Pine Bluff schools would cost, but Washington admits it wouldn't be a cheap venture. The school district will be putting the project out for bid within the coming weeks.

"We're concerned about the safety of our students and our teachers and all of our workers that are in our schools," said Washington. "So that's the important thing and it is worth that to us to be able to do that."

Cameras everywhere may give off the feeling that "Big Brother" is watching. Hazelwood said his district's teachers were weary of school principals constantly watching their every move. But Hazelwood said they don't have the money to pay someone to watch around the clock and he said that's not the point of the cameras.

Washington said it will be the same situation in Pine Bluff schools - although the cameras are rolling she said they're only there, "if there's a problem."

"Then we can go back and look and see exactly who start it, no questions about it," said Washington.