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Newton Superintendent: "Cameras also used at North; I take responsibility"

Posted by Ralph Ranalli January 14, 2008 08:56 AM

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Newton Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young has taken responsibility for controversial video camera systems installed in the city's high schools.
(Globe Staff photo by Suzanne Kreiter)

NEWTON

Superintendent of Schools Jeffrey Young has taken responsibility for the controversial hidden security cameras installed at Newton South High School and has revealed that cameras were also used at Newton North to catch a thief who had stolen approximately $30,000 in electronics and other equipment.

In an open letter to the school community released late last week, Young said that Newton South's principal, Brian Salzer, installed the cameras after consulting with Newton North principal Jennifer Price. Salzer was attempting to deal with a rash of thefts from a locker room area and repeated vandalism in a bathroom near the school's auditorium, Young wrote.

The presence of the cameras at South was revealed by student journalists in the high school's newspaper and several members of the School Committee have said that they should have been consulted before they were put in place.

Young said that Price, working with Newton Police, installed a similar system near a technology locker where more than $30,000 worth of laptops and other equipment had been stolen.

"Shortly thereafter, the thief was recorded using a pair of shears to cut the chain locks on the closet door and was arrested," Young wrote in the letter. "Much of the stolen property was recovered. No other use was made of the tape, and the system has since been turned off."

Young wrote that there are no other cameras installed at any other schools in Newton, and that they will not be used again until there is consensus on a clear policy for their use.

"The cameras at South are off and will remain off, unless and until the School Committee decides on a policy for their use," he said. "As this security issue occurred 'on my watch,' I accept responsibility for the distress it caused."

-- Ralph Ranalli

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