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Japan With Kids - Forums: Education in Japan: School Security
By Tai Dirkse on Tuesday, November 15, 2005 - 11:50 pm:

Do parents like security cameras in a school?

In a relatively safe place like Japan - what are parents opinions on that?

By Scott Hancock on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 12:33 am:

Yes, as a parent, I would appreciate cameras at school. "Relatively" safe is only that. Only takes one unrelated incident. The safety of Japan is highly overrated and underreported. Although recently there have been many unfortunate episodes. I saw in the paper that the Education Ministry is putting some huge money into cameras at all schools now. Hopefully, someone will be watching them.

By Yuko Kubota on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 9:58 am:

I think it depends.

My son's junior high school has a camera at the gate. I think this is important in order to avoid strangers from coming in, and I don't hear about anyone complaining about it.

My son's elementary school used to welcome anyone at any time to drop in and take a look at the classes etc. Schools and parents still think it's important for the whole neighborhood to participate in children's education.

However, since violent crimes such as the one that killed many elememtary school children in Osaka occured, security has become very important, and now most schools have more strict rules on accepting visitors.

I think it was this year that a graduate visited his former elementary school and asked a teacher if he can look around. The trained male teacher agreed but followed him in suspition, and finally was stabbed to death (but at the same time, he yelled out for caution, so no one else was hurt).

The elementary school my son used to attend still doesn't have any cameras, but that's probably only because of financial reasons.

At the moment, I haven't heard about schools putting cameras in the hallways and classrooms etc. Security is currently aimed to avoid outsiders and not to keep watch for their students. Trust is indeed important. Even though a girl killed her classmate in an elementary school classroom.

Of course, not many parents really think that murderers may come to your children any day, but perverts are very often reported in any school's letters and neighborhood bulletins.

Just curious, but why the question, if I may ask?

By Tai Dirkse on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 9:14 pm:

i was just curious... I read an article online:

and security cameras is a hot topic right now amungst students at the school i attend (you must be like... what is a student doing on a parent forum... but yea...)

By Yuko Kubota on Wednesday, November 16, 2005 - 10:30 pm:

Thanks, Tai. Students are most welcome to this forum, as far as I'm concerned.

Security cameras can be a hot topic if you're talking about putting it in all the classrooms like it says in the article.

Btw though, if a "disappearance of a child's ice cream money" is a "humdrum problem", it's scary enough to think about what they were _really_ trying to find through those security cameras.

By Scott Hancock on Thursday, November 17, 2005 - 7:32 am:

I would like to add that Tai is a student who contributes huge amounts of time and talent to his school. His participation and interest here is an extension of noteworthy maturity and community spirit.
Thanks, Tai.

By Scott Hancock on Thursday, November 17, 2005 - 7:38 am:

Another point of view is that sometimes, cameras (what about mics,too?) can protect victims of unobserved misdeeds. Was there never a time you had experiences in class where you could have used an objective witness?

By Cornelia on Friday, November 18, 2005 - 3:20 pm:

The following article has a lengthy discussion following it regarding the efficacy of cameras.
Academics protest antiterror security cameras at railway stations
The three points that jump to my mind are:
1. historically camera film is more useful at proving a crime or catching a perp after the fact rather than preventing the crime from happening
2. this is because of the high cost of monitoring the video stream (in other words no one is watching)
3. and who is benefitting? looks like it's the company making the equipment and the firm installing it.

I think the price ticket of the technology is probably not cost effective, unless you are also measuring semi-intangibles such as parental "peace of mind". In which case it is really hard to measure. You could do a survey that asked each parent, "do you want cameras at school whose purpose it would be to prevent violence?" You would probably end up with a 90-95% yes. But if you do a survey that asks, would you be willing to pay an extra Y70,000 per semester to cover the salary of two security guards whose sole purpose it is to watch the video stream throughout the day, then you would probably get a much lower positive response. If you then added a disclaimer at the bottom of the survey that said "statistically cameras do not prevent violence", the survey might come up with a very low affirmative response indeed.

Also, video cameras traditionally only show actions and do not record the sound. This leads to disasters of misinterpretation. Some actions are apparently clear cut, but others are not.

I think that rather than cameras, we need to teach our children some response tactics, and observation skills. A sad example of this type of acquired personal "radar" is that women in North American cities learn to keep an eye on all male strangers as potential predators when they walk around in public, especially after dark. In fact they are advised to stay in their car (if they have one) after dark unless in a group. This is a habit that I slowly unlearned here in Tokyo (though not entirely).

Just a few days ago, my daughter's school chum was kicked by a man on the train. I personally would count assault against a 9 year old child as a crime. I would immediately report this assault to the police and get a copy of the report to the management of the train line and to the school, so that parents of other children riding that train line could be warned.

However, the response of the parent of this child was to call the school, and the school handled it as if the child was at fault. This reminds me of the days when a woman was considered at fault for being raped, aka. the still prevalent "she asked for it" sort of philosophy.

The bottom line is that no amount of cameras is going to do anything preventive. The community has to work together to build an atmosphere of intolerance towards violence. There has to be a certain agreement on what the rules are and a willingness to get involved when one observes a rule being broken. The adults and kids need to keep their eyes open, and speak up when they see something. They need to know who to speak to. They need to be listened to. The man doing the kicking in this case clearly chose to use his foot instead of a hand, because it was less likely to be seen on a crowded train. Shame on him! And shame on anyone who saw it and did not speak up! And lastly, why didn't the kid holler? Who taught her to stay quiet?

The sad thing is that all too often the people in positions of responsibility and trust are themselves unable to respond in a useful and positive manner. Sadly, incompetance and lack of wisdom permeates all levels of our world, and this leads to useless camera systems being installed, and children learning to accept violence at the hands of strangers as their just due.

Some might even say this is OK, that later as grownups these kids will soon enough have to choose to fit into the heirarchy, and not make waves, regardless of personal safety, dignity, blah, blah. Any pipe dreams we try to teach our kids about justice and differentiating between right and wrong are quickly sabotaged by the reality around us. My job as mother is try to minimize the sabotaging! I want my kid not only to believe in justice but to be willing to fight for it. And that includes screaming for help at the top of her lungs.

P.S. The name of the train line in this case is the Toden Arakawa tram line. But I'm sure that such behavior on the part of a grown-up is not restricted to just that train line.

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