Friday, December 02, 2005

Privacy? Not in Public School Bathrooms

The principal at a high school in Georgia put a video camera in the boys restroom. An 8th-grade student discovered it, and removed it. Now, the student is suspended for "taking school property."

From WMAZ-TV in Macon:

A Jasper County mother says her 8th grade son found a video camera taping in the school bathroom this week. But now, he is the one in trouble.

Cindy Champion says her son, Mac Bedor, and a few of his friends took the camera out of the ceiling because they felt it violated their privacy. Champion says her son brought the camera home to show her that afternoon. She says when she contacted the Jasper County Comprehensive School, she found out high school principal, Howard Fore, put the camera there. She says Fore told her he put the camera in the boys' bathroom to catch students vandalizing. Champion says her son is now suspended for taking school property.

CINDY CHAMPION, MOTHER: "I had told the high school principal, Mr. Fore, that he needed to come up with another solution. That this wasn't appropriate. His response to me was he was going to continue to film."

Jasper County Superintendent, Jay Brinson, sent a faxed response to Eyewitness News. Brinson says high school principal, Howard Fore, placed the camera in the bathroom last Sunday to control vandalism. He says Fore put the camera there "to discover the identity of those doing the damage." Brinson says the principal did tell Cindy Champion that the camera would be installed again. But in his statement Brinson says, "The camera was not placed back in the restroom, and will not be placed back in the restroom."

Eyewitness News tried to contact the Ocmulgee Circuit District Attorney about the legality of placing hidden cameras in public school rest rooms. He covers that area. Eyewitness News was not able to get in touch with him. But, Eyewitness News did talk with Bibb County District Attorney, Howard Simms. He says cameras in public school bathrooms are legal because schools have more leeway on privacy issues.

Now suppose Mac Bedore had not discovered and removed the camcorder. Suppose Principal Fore watched the video at home and was seen through a window by a neighbor. Do you think DA Simms would prosecute Principal Fore for possession of child pornography?

OK, perhaps that ignores the whole privacy issue. But seriously, how does this covert taping differ from any other that might might show less-than-legal-age boys privates? And the District Attorney thinks it's legal? Wonder if he thinks it's legal to secretly tape teachers in the bathroom?