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Parents and teachers object to putting 1,600 cameras in Kansas City, Kansas, classrooms

Exterior of a large office building with an American flag on a pole in front of it.
Zach Perez
/
KCUR
The central office and training center for Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools.

During a lengthy discussion regarding a proposal to place 1,600 cameras in classrooms across the district, Board of Education members committed to having future public discussions on the matter after facing criticism over a lack of community feedback.

Parents and teachers lined up Tuesday night to criticize a $6.8 million proposal to install 1,600 cameras in Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools classrooms.

According to a description of the proposal provided by the board, the cameras could be used to record lessons that would be shared with absent students or to broadcast instruction from one classroom to several others. The recordings might also be used by administrators reviewing how staff teach in the classroom.

The proposal faced universal criticism from six community speakers who appeared at the meeting, all of whom were teachers or parents within the district.

“I spoke with several teachers, and we do not want to teach in a fish bowl,” KCKPS kindergarten teacher Shalesha Parson said. “This tells us that we are not valued, trusted or respected as educators.”

Other community speakers mirrored Parson’s concerns over the cameras potentially being used by parents and other outside personnel to monitor lessons taught in school.

Similar proposals have caused controversy in other states, such as Iowa, where lawmakers attempted to mandate cameras to monitor lessons on race and history.

Schools in Kansas City, Kansas, already have security cameras in some classrooms and common spaces, but this proposal would increase that number to include all classrooms across the district.

Board members also criticized the proposal for moving forward without feedback from community and staff members within the district.

“As a newly elected board member, this item caught me completely off guard as it did many members of our staff and community,” board member Rachel Russell said. “It is my strongest belief that decisions like these should solicit intentional feedback.”

Other members quickly requested additional public discussion on the issue, saying the limited notice and time given to community speakers was inadequate.

“I’d like to make a motion that we provide a setting to have a conversation, in-person as well as virtual, to discuss the camera issue,” Board Member Wanda Brownlee-Paige said.

The board unanimously voted to discuss possible dates for further public discussion during a meeting on Nov. 3.

Zach Perez is KCUR's fall news intern. He started with KCUR after graduating from Kansas State University with a degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and a minor in Political Science. Zach previously worked as an on-air personality for Wildcat 91.9 in Manhattan, Kansas, and as a Media Production Specialist for the Kansas chapter of the International Western Music Association.
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