Parents vs. administrators on cameras in the high school bathrooms

Administrators at Colorado’s Windsor Charter Academy Early College High School are now monitoring students on surveillance cameras inside bathrooms, and parents aren’t very happy about it.

School officials frame the situation as a safety precaution, and parents are raising privacy concerns, but the issue also raises questions about the school’s ability to instill character and responsibility in students.

Parents recently learned that officials at the high school installed four cameras in student bathrooms—two in men’s rooms and two in women’s rooms—as part of a new design that also includes floor-to-ceiling stalls, the Greeley Tribune reports.

“I was floored,” parent Trevor Garrett said.

Garrett and his wife Annie, along with another parent, confronted school officials about the new cameras in October, and demanded to know why parents were not informed. Annie said her daughters contend some girls change in the bathrooms and have a “reasonable expectation of privacy,” phrasing used by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Rebecca Teeples, executive director of Windsor Charter Academy Schools, told the news site the cameras, which allegedly focus only on the bathroom wash stations, were included in a redesign of the school, which opened this year.

She confirmed that academy officials did not inform parents about the change, but noted that signs about the increased surveillance went up days before the cameras. Windsor Charter Academy attorney Bill Bethke argued that the wash stations are technically a public space, and insisted the new cameras and floor-to-ceiling stalls are designed to improve privacy.

“I would urge people to consider that the charter school is trying to improve the protection of privacy, but in doing that drawing a line between the private space and the public space that is new and that people will learn to use appropriately,” he told the Tribune.

Teeples added that the cameras are part of the school’s focus on monitoring all public spaces on campus to ensure students are safe.

“Every decision we make, we make to make sure our students are safe as possible in our school,” she said.

The Garretts, meanwhile, have vowed to pursue a lawsuit if necessary to force school officials to remove the cameras.

While much of the debate about the cameras centers on privacy, it also raises serious questions about responsibility and character.

How have we arrived at a place where we can’t trust students to use the bathroom?

In her book Adult Supervision Required, Markella Rutherford observed that, “Parents have been told [since the 1980s] that children and adolescents must be adequately supervised at all times, which has had particularly dramatic effects on how children spend their free time and engage in peer relationships. The need for constant adult supervision has also constrained children’s opportunities to demonstrate meaningful responsibility and be recognized for their independent contributions. By stressing parents’ supervisory role, the boundary line between adult and child is reinforced, and childhood is constructed as a period of dependence, irresponsibility, and incompetence.”

The ultimate goal is to cultivate moral autonomy in students, so they can make responsible decisions on their own and be held accountable for their actions.

Resources on “good sense” from the Jubilee Centre help educators assist students in cultivating a moral compass that helps them make good decisions.