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Wednesday, April 7, 2010 as of 11:14 AM ET

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Cameras in the Classrooms

October 19, 2009 - 12:19 PM | by: Greg Palkot

London –  Closed circuit cameras are everywhere in the UK, on the streets, outside businesses, inside stores. They’re earning the country the label of “Big Brother Britain.”

Now they’ve “gone to school”…literally. Not just at front gates, in corridors, and cafeterias, but right in the classroom, sometimes a few at a time!

Nearly 100 schools in the UK have signed up to in-class surveillance efforts using high definition cameras, mikes, and recorders.

The UK company behind the systems says they’re not about ‘Big Brother’ but helping teachers improve their performance. “We sell it on the basis of professional development,” says “Classwatch”’s Angus Dreever.

Getting even more attention are the camera’s “crime-fighting” abilities. At one high school, for example, in a tough south London area, there are some 100 cameras. Administrators say they are useful in dealing with robberies, vandalism and misbehavior.

The camera marketers admit this is a worthwhile side benefit. Schools say it even helps them police bullying better.

Civil liberties champions, however, say all this goes too far. Anita Coles of the Liberty group saying they don’t think it’s “…ever necessary to be spying on children in a learning environment.”

Teachers are concerned as well. They think the closed circuit or CCTV material could be used against them. “You can always edit those clips,” says John Bangs of the UK Teacher’s union, “as a way of actually victimizing the teacher.”

There are mixed reactions too from parents and kids. Still, reports are, that enough people here like the cameras to have them installed in hundreds more schools.

As for the US, officials at the Chicago national headquarters of the PTA tell us they are not aware of any widespread use of cameras in classrooms, but if the demand is there, Big Brother could come to American schools too!

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