Hopewell Valley Regional school board updates surveillance policy

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The Hopewell Valley Regional School District’s Board of Education voted unanimously to move forward on an amended policy for electronic surveillance in school buildings and grounds.

The amended policy would restrict the number of people who would be able to view electronic surveillance footage from the schools in the district.

“With cameras becoming commonplace in our society and in our schools, we wanted to clarify their use and outline the access by law enforcement,” Superintendent of Schools Tom Smith said.  “You may recall from the Parkland tragedy; the police did not have immediate access to a district camera. Unless it is an emergency, our police will not monitor our cameras.”

The schools that fall in the district are Bear Tavern Elementary School, Hopewell Elementary School, Stony Brook Elementary School, Toll Gate Grammar School, Timberlane Middle School and Hopewell Valley Central High School.

All of the school buildings are equipped with cameras. The district has about 250 cameras across the district.

“Our surveillance methods haven’t changed, we have expanded the number of cameras in the district and thought it is important to put how we use cameras and who access into policy,” Smith said.

Board Vice President Adam Sawicki said this new amended policy is not a ‘big brother’ scenario, referencing one’s actions and intentions are being monitored by the government as a means of controlling and suppressing the will.

“This is the exact opposite. We are putting in restrictions as to who and when surveillance footage can be viewed in relationship with law enforcement,” he said.

The next Board of Education meeting is on March 18 at 7:30 p.m. and will be held at the Administration Building, 425 S. Main St., in Pennington.