Large Kansas school district to seek additional input before deciding on cameras in the classroom

Cameras won’t be added to Kansas City, Kansas, schools anytime soon, after vocal opposition from some parents and teachers at a meeting Tuesday.

The board of education meeting became contentious as some demanded more transparency and additional input before the board decides on the $6.8 million proposal to install security cameras in every classroom in the district, as KCUR reports.

The proposal introduced Tuesday evening was touted primarily as a way to assist the district in combatting learning loss for absentee students, and to provide more equitable access to teachers amid nationwide teacher shortages, especially for at-risk students.

The board voted unanimously to wait until the Nov. 3 meeting to schedule a subsequent hearing for public comment. But on Tuesday the proposal was met with criticism from parents and teachers alike, as well as from some board members themselves.

“I spoke with several teachers, and we do not want to teach in a fish bowl,” kindergarten teacher Shalesha Parson said. “This tells us that we are not valued, trusted or respected as educators. Please vote against cameras in the classroom. Teachers under audio and video scrutiny is not the answer.” 

Board member Rachel Russell seemed to be unaware of the proposal prior to Tuesday’s meeting, saying, “As a newly elected board member, this item caught me completely off guard, as it did many members of our staff and community. It is my strongest belief that decisions like these should solicit intentional feedback.” 

Superintendent Dr. Anna Stubblefield responded, saying, “Most of us were not even a part of the district [when this was proposed], but it fell in our lap, and we have to navigate it. So, I just want us to get over blaming each other.” 

The board debated the effectiveness of a district survey seeking feedback on the proposal, as well as the implementation of it, prompting one board member to suggest soliciting additional community input before putting the proposal to a vote. 

“Not everyone fills the survey out,” board member Wanda Brownlee-Paige said. “And then maybe they would prefer to come in here and speak. I think we need to give them that opportunity.” 

Other community speakers voiced concerns about whether the cameras would be used by parents and other third parties to monitor teachers in their classrooms.  

But the concerns come at a time when many parents around the country are calling for more transparency in the classroom.  

“If you have nothing to hide, and you’re teaching math and science and reading – and not gender studies and how terrible America is and Critical Race Theory and things like that – then what’s the big deal?” asked KCMO talk show host Pete Mundo on Wednesday, comparing class cameras to police body cams. 

“And that what we would tell cops, right? … I think it is good for teachers who are public servants.”