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Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Com center gains access to school security cameras

Sunday, January 27, 2013

School and emergency service personnel met Friday morning to continue their discussion about giving law enforcement access to school security cameras in case of an emergency without violating the stringent privacy requirements placed on school systems.

According to county planning and zoning director Chris White, a former law enforcement officer who serves on the emergency communications district (E-911) board, he met Friday morning with County Fire Chief Mark Thomas, who is also on the E-911 board; interim school superintendents Mike Bone and Ed Gray; and school system technology supervisor Ben Barrett.

Two-year wait

The issue was raised on Tuesday during a committee meeting on school security. White had complained that the communications center still does not have emergency access to the school system's security cameras, as agreed to by the school board in May 2011, and said the school system's technology subcontractor had been putting the com center off.

Bone, who was not superintendent at the time of that agreement, said that access raises privacy-related legal concerns for the school system.

White said Friday morning's meeting was productive.

Fast response

"Once Mr. Bone was made aware of the issue, he worked diligently to resolve the issues without hesitation," said White in an e-mail to the Times-Gazette. "We discovered that much of the work has already been done by Mr. Gray prior to his departure but a few minor details were left unresolved by both parties."

White said equipment had been picked up from the com center and was being formatted to work with the school system's technology. He said the equipment should be ready to deploy next week.

"Once our dispatchers have been properly trained and a Memorandum of Understanding signed, our dispatchers will have full access to those systems to be used specifically for actual emergencies and also for scheduled training events throughout the year organized with the schools administration," said White.

Privacy protected

Dispatchers will only use the feed for designated emergencies or training events, because of the privacy issues raised by school officials.

White thanked Bone and Gray for being "extraordinarily committed to the safety of both school employees and pupils but also for our first responders who put their lives at risk in responding to these potentially life-threatening calls for help."

He said giving the com center access to the video feeds will help first responders know what to expect in the case of an emergency, and where in the building it's happening, which he said could help lead to quicker and safer resolutions to problems.

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