Boston schools go too far with audio surveillance of school buses

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Boston's school department has offered no evidence that incidents of bullying or other misbehavior have increased to the point where both audio and video surveillance of students on their way to and from school are required. Yet the school system is in the process of equipping its 750 yellow school buses with both microphones and cameras. It’s an extreme initiative that unnecessarily infringes on private conversations.

Video recordings are routine, and especially useful when it comes to identifying gross misconduct, like physical assault, on the part of bus riders. But audio recordings are different in tone and tenor. And the city’s policy fails to make that distinction. It is not even clear how audio surveillance will keep students safer. It may even have a deleterious effect, according to defenders of civil liberties.

“We’re indoctrinating children to believe that everything they say and do will be recorded by some faceless entity behind glass,” said Kade Crockford, director of the Technology for Liberty project at the American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts.

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