Israeli Education Ministry to Limit Use of Security Cameras in Schools

Cameras will be permitted only to prevent violence and not to catch students skipping classes.

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Cameras will no longer be installed in kindergartens, and in schools they will be allowed in corridors and the schoolyard, but not in gyms or in classrooms. These are some of the new regulations to be issued by the Education Ministry.

A ministry document also states that cameras cannot be used to replace on-duty teachers during recess. Moreover, in contrast to the current situation, local authorities will not be able to decide to install cameras in schools in their jurisdiction. Rather, the decision will be up to the principal and the teachers.

The new regulations come after years in which more and more security cameras have been installed in hundreds of schools in dozens of cities and towns.

The document, outlining the new rules, to be issued by the ministry director general, has not yet been published and is now being scrutinized by the Justice Ministry. However, the head of the Education Ministry’s Psychological Counseling Service, Hannah Shadmi, on Tuesday made the details public at a conference on child and family rights at Sha’arei Mishpat College in Hod Hasharon.

Before the Education Ministry will allow a camera to be installed, the new directives will require the principal to explain to the ministry why it is necessary and what other steps he or she has taken to prevent violence in the school. Principals will be limited to using the cameras to prevent violence and not to follow students who are skipping classes.

The new regulations also say when cameras can operate and the maximum resolution. Voice recording will be prohibited, and principals will be required to inform all parents and teachers that cameras have been installed.

The Education Ministry currently has no body directly responsible for supervision of cameras in schools.

Education Ministry figures on cameras in schools are based only on information voluntarlyy provided by the schools themselves. In response to a query from Haaretz a few months ago, the Education Ministry said: “The Internet questionnaire on the issue of the atmosphere in the school and the reduction of violence asks principals if there are cameras installed in their school. The data reveals that out of 1,644 elementary schools, 36 percent said they have cameras and out of 914 post-elementary schools, 58 percent said they had cameras installed.”

Shadmi also said at the conference that she opposes security cameras in schools but this is a need of the system that cannot be ignored, and therefore there should be clear rules. “A good many studies indicate that violence declines in the short term, but not in the long term, and the presence of cameras has not been found to increase the children’s sense of security," Shadmi said.

Attorney Sunny Kalev, head of the Clinic for Education Rights of the Academic Center for Law and Business in Ramat Gan, also has reservations about the use of cameras in schools. In a letter sent to the education, public security, interior and justice ministries several months ago, Kalev wrote, “In light of the infringement of the constitutional right to privacy, and the fact that in many cases director generals’ guidelines are not fully implemented or enforced,” the matter must be legislated directly by the Knesset.

A security camera.Credit: Dreamstime

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