Schools are increasingly putting students under
closed-circuit television surveillance to cut bullying.
The practice is suggested in new Ministry of Education
bullying prevention guidelines - and some schools have
already put cameras near toilet blocks after learning bullied
children were avoiding them for fear of getting bashed.
One Auckland principal reportedly keeps an eye on monitoring
screens in their office.
The bullying prevention document is the work of an advisory
group including the Children's Commissioner, police,
education unions, principals' associations and cyber-safety
Other practical advice to schools includes stressing to
students that as bystanders they can either enable or defuse
bullying, and how to create confidential reporting systems.
Schools are asked to consider whether there are areas where
students feel unsafe, and are given advice on how grounds can
be changed to reduce bullying.
"Ensuring areas are easily accessible, well lit, and
regularly supervised/monitored (using closed-circuit
television) will help reduce the likelihood of bullying," the
Patrick Walsh, who helped to write the guidelines as an
executive of the Secondary School Principals Association,
said he was surprised by the number of schools that used CCTV
to combat bullying.
They often put cameras outside toilet blocks, because student
surveys revealed victims of bullying often avoided those
areas. "They don't go to the toilet all day because they are
afraid to go into the toilet because they'll be assaulted."
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner says schools must
display "notices about the presence of cameras" and "have
clear policy guidelines about storage and access to the
Mr Walsh, principal of John Paul College in Rotorua, said
there was a balance to be struck, but privacy concerns were
minor compared to the bigger picture.
"I think the vast majority of students and parents would be
happy to have more cameras in a school if it meant that the
school was going to be a physically safe environment."
Whangarei Boys' High School has used CCTV for many years to
deter misbehaviour among students, says headmaster Al Kirk.
"We've got them in different places around the school, but
primarily at entrances to the loos and stuff like that to
just ensure that if there was any nonsense going on we have a
rough idea [and] can track them."
Incidents which actually required viewing of the footage
probably occurred about once a term, Mr Kirk said. "We didn't
introduce it because we had a problem. We introduced it it to
ensure we didn't get problems."
Ministry of Education executive Rawiri Brell said security
cameras were most often used to guard against vandalism.
They were funded through a school's property budget and
administrators were not required to report they had been
"It is up to schools to decide, in consultation with their
parent community, what measure they take to minimise
[bullying]. We will support them in this process."
The Human Rights Commission says children have a right to be
free from violence and abuse in school.
"Our schools need support to ensure this becomes a reality,"
said chief Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford.