UK schools trial police-style body cameras for teachers

To combat disorderly students, two secondary schools in the UK have started trialling staff-worn body cameras. Teachers will use the equipment to record specific incidents, such as a “perceived threat to a member of staff or pupil,” according to Tom Ellis, a lecturer at the University of Portsmouth and a former Home Office researcher. The identity of the schools is, for now, a mystery, to avoid unwanted interference during the trial. The cameras won’t be recording at all times either — similar to the police, it will be up to teachers to decide when to hit the record button.

“It’s not like a surveillance camera,” Ellis stressed.

It’s hoped the cameras will discourage “low-level background disorder” during lessons. Classrooms can get pretty rowdy; a clearly visible camera could act as a deterrent for troublesome students. The parents at each school have been “fully informed” of the scheme and are “supportive,” according to Ellis, due to the nature of the recording. “Filming only occurs when it is legitimate, proportionate and necessary,” he explained.

Body cameras have been trialled in schools before. Iowa’s Burlington Community School District purchased 13 cameras for principals and assistant principals in 2015. Usage by teachers, however, is rarer, mostly due to the volume and associated costs involved with a school-wide roll-out. Police in the US and UK have been quick to adopt the technology, but in schools the decision is arguably more complex. The UK’s Department for Education says teachers are “acting within the law as far as we know,” but admits it hasn’t looked into the matter. We suspect it will pretty soon, given the impact body cameras could have on the education system.

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