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  • 20 Sep 2014

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The Valley Reporter
P.O. Box 119
Waitsfield, VT 05673
802-496-3928
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‘Strong opposition’

To The Editor:

To all Harwood Union Middle/High School board members, I write to you tonight in strong opposition to your collective decision to run 24/7 surveillance cameras throughout the HUHS property and in strong support of HUHS school board member David Goodman's reasoned and reasonable dissenting voice to run surveillance cameras at HUHS only after hours.

I am unable to make tonight's school board meeting/public hearing, due to family obligations, but I'd like to go on the public record. Our 21st-century society is rapidly moving toward a pervasive culture of surveillance. Almost everywhere we turn, we are confronted with this conundrum – our mobile phones serve as tracking devices; social media platforms plumb our personal lives for data; U.S. government agencies secretly surveil us with little oversight, often with the cooperation of the telecom companies which are supposed to be providing us customers with a simple communications service.

In this 21st-century surveillance culture, we Vermonters must model (for ourselves, our children and our communities) walking a line that balances liberty with security. Vermont public schools, in addition, have a special obligation to protect the privacy of our young citizens as they come of age. If public schools do not, who will? Facebook? The NSA?

It seems reasonable, given recent acts of vandalism at our school, to maintain surveillance cameras during off hours when the building is uninhabited. But 24/7? This makes little sense, and represents a breach of trust and a collective invasion of the culture of collaboration, trust and learning our HUHS administrators, faculty and staff work so hard to engender with our students.

I have a suggestion. Why not open this surveillance conversation up to schoolwide debate? Have our students, faculty and staff engage in research and vigorous discussion about the pros and cons of 24/7 surveillance. After all, they are the ones most directly affected by this decision. I look forward to more dialogue about this issue in the weeks ahead and am happy to help support this conversation in any way that I can.

Rob Williams, chair
Waitsfield School Board

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