HAMMOND | The Board of Trustees for the School City of Hammond is considering a policy to allow some personnel carry and use recording equipment, including wearing monitoring equipment while on duty.
The district is working with Ohio-based NEOLA Inc. to review and revise the policy to conform with Indiana law.
Proposed Policy 7440.01 authorizes using video and audio monitoring equipment on board property and buses. The board authorizes security personnel to use body-worn monitoring equipment while on duty.
The policy says signs would notify anyone entering buildings that communication and actions may be monitored and recorded in that facility.
School Board member Cindy Murphy objects to audio devices being used. She disagrees with security personnel using "body-worn monitoring equipment." Murphy lodged objections at board meetings.
"I understand monitoring the video but there is something about the audio that bothers me," Murphy said Friday. "My position is that we shouldn't be recording people. How would the audio recording be used? I'm fine with the rest of the policy."
The board will consider the policy at a meeting Monday.
Hammond Superintendent Walter Watkins said the policy has been under review for a few weeks. The board requested the human relations director and superintendent establish guidelines on how recorded devices would be used.
"We have not had anything like this in place before," Watkins said. "Nothing has happened in the district causing this to come up but I think because of the tenor of what's happening in society, school violence and social media, we need to have policies in place."
NEOLA Chief Operations Officer Sandy Krueger said the company works with school districts across the state and the country.
"There is information in the policy about signs notifying those entering a building that they are being monitored," she said. "We don't keep track of which district takes which policy."
Krueger said NEOLA works with Indianapolis-based law firm of Bose McKinney & Evans to make sure policies meet legal requirements.
Valparaiso attorney Bill Satterlee said he thinks the School Board and administration have a duty to make sure their facilities are safe for students and faculty.
"If you notify people when they come on campus that they are being monitored, it doesn't invade anyone's privacy," Satterlee said. "It's done for their protection and documentation of what's going on."
The majority of school districts in Lake and Porter counties that work with NEOLA have eliminated the language regarding audio recordings from their policy except for Crown Point Community School Corp.
According to the Crown Point School Board policy on its website, the language matches the template from NEOLA saying board employees are authorized to carry and use video and audio recording equipment. It was adopted June 17.
The School City of Whiting uses says the superintendent is authorized to install metal detectors, video and audio monitoring equipment on school property to protect the health, welfare, and safety of students, staff, visitors, and board property. The superintendent is also authorized to deploy other security devices that would assist in detecting contraband such as weapons or drugs on school property. That policy was revised June 24, 2013.
Some boards did not post policies online.
Indiana School Board Association attorney Lisa Tanselle said the state board assists local school boards in drafting policies and will review them to ensure they comply with Indiana law. "We have not recommended that every board have this kind of policy. It sounds like something that is decided locally with consultation from an attorney," she said.
Portage School Board President Cheryl Oprisko said the board reviews policies twice a year with NEOLA, and asks the Indiana School Board Association to review them. Portage's policy eliminated the language calling for audio recordings.
The School Town of Munster approved its Electronic Monitoring and Recording Policy on July 9, 2012, eliminating the audio-taping section. Munster Superintendent Richard Sopko said they have talked about it but haven't made that "leap" yet.
"I'm not saying it won't come in the future, but we don't have it now," he said. "We question students. If we tape them, we let them know. There are signs up in the buildings telling people that we have monitoring devices outside the building."
Valparaiso Community Schools policy says the superintendent shall develop and supervise a program for security including installing video surveillance equipment in appropriate areas in and around the schools and district facilities.
Valparaiso Superintendent Mike Berta said he has never experienced a situation where the district would use a recording device in talking to students.