© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

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
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.

As KCUR’s Community Engagement Producer, I help welcome our audiences into the newsroom, and bring our journalism out into the communities we serve. Many people feel overlooked or misperceived by the media, and KCUR needs to do everything we can to cover and empower the diverse communities that make up the Kansas City metro — especially the ones who don’t know us in the first place. My work takes the form of reporting stories, holding community events, and bringing what I’ve learned back to Up To Date and the rest of KCUR.

What should KCUR be talking about? Who should we be talking to? Let me know. You can email me at zjperez@kcur.org or message me on Twitter at @zach_pepez.

KCUR serves the Kansas City region with breaking news and award-winning podcasts.
Your donation helps keep nonprofit journalism free and available for everyone.